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Martin Luther King’s metaphors try to influence the clergymen to put themselves in the shoes of African Americans. He expresses the privation of African Americans with a metaphor when he wrote; “When you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an air-tight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society….” King compares “smothering in an air-tight cage” to the poverty African Americans are suffering under. A second metaphor depicted racial injustice as “quicksand”. Using the metaphor “quicksand” provides urgency to the issue.
This quote demonstrates how racial injustice is hurting America and putting its citizens into dangerous circumstances. Even though racial injustice and quicksand are different, they both are negative elements that are the cause of destruction.
Also, metaphors can be seen again in King’s letter where it is used to convey injustice as immoral. King highlights this situation by stating that it is painful like “a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light…” In other words a healing boil is parallel to racial injustice being exposed so it can be resolved. When racism is exposed, people may see the true hideousness of the issue. He believes this use of metaphor will make his audience think about these circumstances in detail.
Also, in the second sentence of paragraph 14, King juxtaposes the rate of change in Asian and African cultures with the rate of change in American culture. To achieve this juxtaposition, he creates a metaphor, stating that Africa and Asia are “moving with jet like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at a horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.” The effect of this metaphor is shocking, as America, being one of the most powerful countries on Earth, is less progressive than a third world country. The way he says it as well is extremely powerful, which shows that the people of Africa are extremely close to something huge like complete political independence but Americans are not even close to being able to eat at the same restaurants as one another.
However, there is even more to this metaphor than meets the eye. The cup not only represents being able to eat alongside white men, but it also represents total equality, which is something that is extremely desirable. “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.” Once again he refers to this cup as what Negroes are trying to achieve. One day their dream will be achieved and their cup will be full. A simple object such as a cup can symbolize something much grander than its physical appearance.
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