How does King use figurative language in "Letter from Birmingham City Jail"?

King uses figurative language to enhance his letter. Some examples of figurative language are allusion, analogy, and vivid metaphors.

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Figurative language enhances literal language to add value and interest to a piece of writing.

King uses allusion and analogy when he writes the following:

... just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco...

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Figurative language enhances literal language to add value and interest to a piece of writing.

King uses allusion and analogy when he writes the following:

... just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.

Allusion is a reference to history or to another work of literature. King strengthens his case for his involvement in Birmingham by likening himself to Paul, a figure likely to be highly respected by the group of pastors to whom he is writing. King positions himself as analogous to Paul. He is doing the same Christian work of carrying the gospel out into the word. This enhances King's stature and makes it hard to attack his actions.

In the quotes below, King uses adjectives to enhance and amplify the way Birmingham has mistreated its black community by adding the words "ugly" and "grossly" to his sentences below:

Its [Birmingham's] ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts.

King uses metaphors below. Metaphors are comparisons that don't use the words like or as. In the first instance, King compares what has been done to black hopes to something having been physically blasted to pieces, perhaps with dynamite. In the second, he compares believing in myths and half truths to being physically bound up and restricted:

our hopes had been blasted

the bondage of myths and half truths

King uses vivid visual metaphors below, contrasting the "jetlike" speed of change on other continents to the "horse and buggy pace" of progress in the United States. A "touch" metaphor helps readers feel that segregation stings like being hit with darts in the second sentence below:

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. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait."

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