In the letter from Birmingham, Martin Luther King JR sends a response to several clergymen about the racism in Alabama. Throughout the letter, he uses many literary devices to build and strengthen his argument, three examples used are allusion. King uses allusion to the Bible to build up his reputation as a trusted clergyman.
The example of allusion found in the third paragraph, King states “Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.” This device is effective because it helps build his credibility as a respected minister in the christian church, despite the fact he was in jail. Alluding to the bible was a great way to build his ethos. Another example of allusion King utilizes in his letter is when he mentions the holocaust. King states in paragraph 22,”We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.
But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws.” (King) He uses the holocaust allusion as a comparison to what was happening in the US in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The allusion to the holocaust was used to make the audience feel bad about the issue of racism which is a great demonstration of using pathos. The final use of allusion was when he was talking about the Ku Klux Klan. Kig states in paragraph 23 that ,”I MUST make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers.
First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”(king) King used this to show that these situations of injustice are very similar.
Overall MLK used allusion to build credibility and appeal to emotions.