Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 226
  • Published : November 30, 2005
Open Document
Text Preview
A Letter from Birmingham Jail" was penned as a response to a letter that criticized Martin Luther King Jr. written by eight high ranking clergymen. Although King's letter was addressed as a reply to these clergymen, the real audience was the "white moderate" - otherwise known as middle class America (King et al 106). By gaining the support of this majority group, King knew that the civil rights movement could achieve its goals of removing the illegal segregation practices that were still in place in the south during the nineteen sixties much faster. In his letter King goes through the list of charges made against him by these religious figures and takes issues with their main points. King's reply was eloquently written, made use of many methods of development and dealt with a very emotionally charged issue in a predominately logical manner. The letter is without doubt a very powerful piece of prose but its effectiveness is compromised by one unfortunately underlying fault - ethical integrity.

Immediately noticeable in this essay is the eloquence of the prose. This is one of the methods King uses to present his argument in a non-aggressive style. It helps lay the tone of the essay in an ethical sounding, non-blaming manner. This is essential when considering who Kings target audience was. If King had written a letter attacking his audience the ultimate purpose of the essay would have been lost. A good example of this is found in paragraph eight when King writes about the breaking of promises made to the Negro community by the local white merchants. "As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us"(102). This passage immediately shows that King is recognizing faults but, more importantly, still not laying blame. And with the phrase "that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood"(102). we see King again using eloquent...
tracking img