Letter From Birmingham Jail

How does King use allusions to support his argument in favor of civil disobedience?

lines 247-264

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Due to the extent of his higher learning, Dr. King had ready access to a number of allusions from a variety of religious and secular traditions, and he makes full use of that knowledge in the “Letter.” While each allusion serves a particular purpose in the context of the argument in which it is used, when taken together they underline two aspects of his argument. First is his argument that all men are interrelated, and responsible for one another. The multiple traditions from which Dr. King draws his allusions reflects this belief, showing his deference for and trust in a variety of approaches, including: secular theory; Jewish theology; Christian thinkers; political figures; and historical persons. Secondly, Dr. King’s use of multiple traditions for his allusions reinforces the unimpeachability of his argument. By directing the text to peoples of so many backgrounds, and using their most celebrated figures to support his case, he makes it difficult for any person to view the overall argument as separate from him or his own culture or background.