English Grammar: Letter From Birmingham Term Paper
Excerpt from Term Paper :
The first independent clause begins in a strong active voice, with a strong decisive verb, (Graff, 2006).
This represents his shift from true passiveness to a form of non-violent action. Then, the dependent clause "realizing that except for Christmas," begins with a gerund. The verb to realize is transformed into a noun with the adding of a "-ing." This is aimed at showing the general modality of the speaker. The speaker and all involved had a previous knowledge of the realization involved in the process. Then King Jr. refers back to the object Easter with the subject and verb of "this is." This is a form of a relative clause which is therefore a form of adjective clause, (Lewis, 1986).
The next sentence continues the modality of the gerund verb. This sentence is a dependent attached to an independent clause first beginning with a gerund, "Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change," (King, 1963). After the initial gerund, the clause continues with a modal verb of "would be" showing the direct effect of the economic withdrawal as a product of the subjects initial action. This clause also represents the function of an adverb dependent clause which modifies the independent clause which follows, (Lewis, 1986). The independent clause is then introduced after a comma, (Strunk & White, 1999). This clause once again begins with a transition towards active would with the use of a strong past verb -- felt. The "this" refers to the earlier object of Easter which was seen in the previous sentence. The sentence then closes with the stress on "needed change" showing a strong necessity for a different way of life in the South. This sentence is the conclusion of the first paragraph within the selected text.
The next paragraph begins once again with a return to passive voice. It reverts back towards the use of weak verbs in the context of a subject whom King is attempting to disrupt, and he must remain passive as to not promote a threatening tone which would compromise his non-violent message, "The it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone the action until after election day," (King, 1963). This passive voice also attests to his unwillingness to create too much chaos with his demonstrations. Rather than being labeled as troublemakers before an election, King Jr. And his followers decided to take a nobler route and wait until the energy calmed down after the election. The sentence itself is a combination of a passive voice independent clause followed by a comma which separates the next dependent clause. This second clause begins with the coordinate conjunction and followed by an adverb clause beginning with the adverb "speedily" which modifies the actual verb decided, (Lewis, 1986).
This dependent clause itself is separated by the subordinate conjunction "until."
The next sentence is a complicated series of various clauses meant at informing the reader further of the purpose of delaying the said planned action until after the heated election. The sentence itself begins with an adverb clause, "When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene 'Bill' Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run-off," (King, 1963). The adverb clause is interrupted by an adjective clause which modifies the noun of "Bill" Connor's title name. The clause is continued with a passive verb in the form of past perfect, "had piled." The clause is then completed with a prepositional phrase, "to be in the run-off." The following independent clause introduced by the use of a comma represents the action set forth based on the previously described event, "we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run-off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues," (King, 1963). This independent clause starts off with strong active voice with "we decided." The initial chunk of the sentence is joined with the later half with the use of the "so that" which then introduces the noun "the demonstrations" modified by the modal verb "could not be used to cloud the issues."
The next sentence begins with a short dependent clause. This dependent clause is then followed by an independent after a coma, "Like so many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated," (King, 1963). This represents an adjective clause which
is later followed by another dependent clause. The next portion of the sentence is a dependent clause opened with a coordinate conjunction, "And to this end, we endured postponement after postponement," (King, 1963). This represents a noun clause which modifies the previously used verb of "defeated." This last clause also represents a stylistic parallelism which is seen in the repetition of "postponement." The verb of this clause also represents a more active and descriptive still, with the past tense of "to endure."
The next sentence begins with the idea that their wait was now over. This sentence begins with a gerund where the verb ending with "-ing" is used as a noun, acting as the direct subject of the verb, "Having aided in this community need," (King, 1963). This forms the adjective clause which modifies the later noun in the independent clause, "we felt that our direct-action program could be delayed no longer," (king, 1963). The last portion of the sentence concludes with a modal verb with "could be delayed no longer." This is the concluding sentence of the second paragraph selected for intense grammatical analysis. This paragraph was relatively short compared to the previous one chosen for this present purpose. It is building a sense of suspense that will culminate in the further description of the "direct-action" which follows in the following paragraph.
This paragraph opens with a serious of open ended questions directed to engage the reader with the material. Since Martin Luther King Jr. is already familiar with his intended audience, he is allowed to use the personal subjective pronoun "you" in the formation of his personal style of ethos; "You may ask: 'Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?'" (King, 1963). He directly involves his audience in attempt to have them more intimately related to the subject at hand. His voice is separated from the questions through the use of a colon. Each question in itself is an independent clause representing a series of dummy verbs, (Lewis, 1986). This series of questions also sets up his direct response to his audience which is seen later in the nest sentence. It is King Jr. bringing in the voice of a naysayer in order to bring forth another element of his justification to make a stronger argument, (Graff, 2006). This element is an important part of any strong argument, for it shows the reader that the speaker has a well rounded perspective of the situation in which he or she is creating an argument. In this passage, King Jr. presents his naysayer in the form of questions the actual readers might pose in an opposing view of his argument.
The following sentence represents his response to such commonly held questions his audience may be potential pondering after reading this text. At first, Martin Luther King Jr. agrees with his audience, "You are quite right in calling for negotiation," (King, 1963). He addresses his audience directly and shows his understanding for such questions posed in the previous sentence. Yet, the strength is once again taken out of the statement with the use of an auxiliary verb, or the right form of to be attached to a verb in an "-ing" ending, (Lewis, 1986).
With this sentence is continuing his initial task at making his own point stronger through acknowledgement of other aspects of the situation as a whole.
The next sentence continues with this agreement to the audience. He acknowledges why his audience would react in the way he presented, "Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action," (King, 1963). The sentence itself begins with a subordinate conjunction which introduces the independent clause. This clause begins with "this" to refer back to the object of the noun "negotiation," which is stated in the previous sentence. The verb here is once again passive, being a form of "to be." Here, King Jr. begins to unravel what he believes to be the definition of direct action in its relation to non-violence.
This is where Martin Luther King Jr. once again returns to a more direct, active way of speaking to his audience to truly drive his point home. He uses a sentence structure which places the subject and verb close in context, and uses a present tense of the strong verbs which he chooses, "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront…
Sources Used in Documents:
King, Martin Luther Jr. (1963). Letter from Birmingham jail. University of Pennsylvania. African Studies. 12 June. 2008. http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
Lewis, Michaels. (1986). The English verb: an exploration of structure and meaning.
Language Teaching Publications.
Strunk, William & White, E.B. (1999). The elements of style. Longman Publishers.
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