In "Letter," what language devices (aside from anaphora) does King employ in the following lines to further his argument?"In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must...

In "Letter," what language devices (aside from anaphora) does King employ in the following lines to further his argument?

"In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber."

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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In your example, which, as you note, uses anaphora as a rhetorical technique, which helps to provide balance to King's argument in this section, the other obvious device King uses here is allusion.

By his references to both Socrates and Jesus, King manages to allude to both the most powerful proponent of logical argument in classical literature (Socrates) and perhaps the most effective appeal to biblical truth (the persistence of Jesus in pursuing his truth in the face of intense opposition) and, most important, King makes the allusions entirely relevant to his argument.

In his three questions, King appeals to his readers' understanding of logic and biblical history.  Socrates' death, essentially imposed by the failure of the Athenian populace to understand Socrates' pursuit of truth, cannot by any rational measure be imputed to Socrates.  Jesus's death on the cross is not the result of Jesus' actions but rather the result of the hate of the truths Jesus espoused.  King's choice of Socrates and Jesus is a masterful rhetorical tactic because King knew that his audience, the ministers who opposed his actions in Birmingham, not only studied Socrates and Jesus but also revered their pursuit of truth at the cost of their lives.

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