“Letters from a Birmingham Jail” Analysis of the Rhetorical Appeals

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In order to successfully write rhetorically, an author must persuade an audience as if to win a debate. To do this, the author must create a trustworthy bond with the audience, support his claim through reason, and create emotion in the audience that compels them to leap out of their seats and take action. Martin Luther King Jr. attempted to do this when he wrote an open letter while in his jail cell after a peaceful debate against segregation. His lettered response was guided at a statement by eight white Alabama clergymen saying that segregation should be fought in court and not on the streets. King uses a combination of three rhetorical appeals to accomplish his rhetor; ethical, logical and emotional. The three appeals used together successfully persuade the audience to believe King’s argument. The rhetorical trinity consists of three parts; purpose, author, and audience. In order to understand what King was trying to persuade the audience into believing, the three parts to the rhetorical trinity must be identified. The purpose of King’s letter was to explain to the clergyman that direct action is necessary for negotiation; as King says “You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action.” The second part of the trinity is the author; Martin Luther King Jr. King was a strong advocate and leader to all blacks in the 1960’s during anti-segregation movements. King was greatly opposed to segregation and was jailed many times for his actions. King was known most for his speech “I Have a Dream” given to Congress supporting civil rights which was a huge turning point for blacks seeking freedom from oppression. The final part of the trinity is audience. King’s audience was primarily the white clergyman but included all of the American public.

“Ethos” or ethical appeal, the first step in rhetor, is an argument based on character. The defining character for ethical appeal is does the writer have the authority to speak...
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