Literary Devices in King's Letter from Birmingham Jail


will we be extremist for hate or will we be extremists...


injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere


just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we...


...paralyzing chains of conformity


...small in number, big in commitment

intelligent diction

his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness


the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey


at the beginning of letter, displays common ground to establish credibility


...see tears welling up in her eyes...Funtown is closed to colored people


to put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law

common ground

my dear fellow clergymen


The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.

diction, intellectual must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

appeal to religion


appeal to patriotism



Then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.


If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

anticipation and rebuttal of counterargument


deductive reasoning, includes syllogism

general to specific logic
People accused King of supporting some laws while breaking others

inductive reasoning

specific to broad logic
Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of e

tone - disappointed

If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

imperative sentence

Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

interrogative sentence

I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts, and pray long prayers?