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Word Count: 727
Allusions and Metaphors in Letter from the Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King Jr in his famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail responds forcefully yet politely to a public statement made by eight Alabama clergymen in 1963 He defends his position as an African American and strongly advocates racial equality citing countless sources and employing several literary devices Most significantly King uses frequent allusions and vivid metaphors to relate to his audience and convey his passion for equality Martin Luther King Jr uses allusions not only to display his incredible knowledge but also to connect with his audience primarily the religious leaders Almost all of his references come from the Bible with a few exceptions For instance when he speaks of just and unjust laws he calls upon the reasoning of a Catholic saint To put in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law Any law that uplifts human personality is just Any laws that degrades human personality is unjust712 Appealing to the Catholic clergy and parishioners King smoothly inserts the fundamental mores of a Catholic saint This shows off his education of the Catholic faith and makes an undeniable connection with his Catholic audience A second example of an allusion made to a person pleases those of the Jewish faith King mentions To use the words of Martin Buber the great Jewish philosopher segregation substitutes an I-it relationship for the I-thou relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things712 Not only does King convey his passion for equality with this reference but he also relates directly to the Jewish people However most of Kings allusions are Bible verses He cites the book of Daniel when he discusses Shadrach Meshach and Abednego and the disobedience of a law for higher principles to King African Americans should represent the Christian martyrs who willingly broke unjust laws to
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