A Letter From Birmingham Jail

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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An epigram is defined as a short sentence that is pithy, and leaves a lasting affect. Epigrams are used by writers to project their message to the reader in a simplified way. In a paragraph with a conclusion epigram, instead of remembering the whole paragraph all the reader has to do is remember the epigram to understand the gist of the paragraph. In ?A Letter From Birmingham Jail,? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., uses epigrams to sum up his arguments, and to leave the reader with a effect of resonance.

King?s ?Letter From Birmingham City Jail? was written on April 16, 1963, while King was imprisoned for participating in a peaceful protest in Birmingham, Alabama. Eight Alabama clergyman wrote an open letter that questioned King?s methods and suggested that he use the court system as a means for change. King?s letter was a reply that was meant to respond to the clergymen and spread his beliefs.

In his letter, he responds to some of his criticisms, such as his demonstrations, direct action, and his timing. He, then, explains his motives for acting, and why they were justified. His attitude in the letter changes. At the beginning he is submissive to the clergy?s criticism, at the end he begins to criticize the clergy. This letter was symbolic of a movement, and all the injustices it faced.

King?s letter is lengthy and complex, and sometimes this can cause a reader to lose focus. King uses epigrams as a device to make sure the reader still comprehends his message. In the beginning paragraphs, King states what brought him to Birmingham and why he is justified in being there. In his argument he alludes to Apostle Paul, and provides dull factual operational information about the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Even if...