When the British ruled over India, freedom and independence became a huge concern for the Indians. Their goal was to achieve liberty and home-rule, to overthrow the British ruling. The Indians were treated very poorly, getting taxed on their own resources – including salt. This angered a lot of Indians, and in order to stand up for his country and make things right, Gandhi proposed his idea of non-violence. In Gandhi’s first letter to Lord Irwin, his successful use of language and structure of letter helped present his idea of civil disobedience. This letter strongly symbolizes the power of language, as being an Indian; he portrays his intentions with fluent English. From the sophisticated use of language in his letter, Gandhi successfully expresses his idea for civil disobedience and nonviolence.
Gandhi slowly brings in the idea of non-violence in his letter, in a peaceful and calm manner. By using his specific choice of words and a calm tone, he makes this new and unprecedented idea of civil disobedience easier for Lord Irwin to accept. He made it very clear from both the beginning and the end of the letter that he comes with no harm; as states that “[He] does not intend to harm a single Englishman or any legitimate interest he may have in India”. He reflects on the idea that he sees the British rule as a curse, but he doesn’t take it personally on the British Englishmen. By emphasizing this idea, Gandhi makes sure that he is not portraying personal hatred on the Englishmen; to show that he will never hurt them. This letter conveys Gandhi’s idea for finding a solution for this issue; that he doesn’t want to resort to civil disobedience. Throughout most of the letter, he conveys his wish to find a solution for this problem; yet at the same time, use factual numbers and information to show how big the gap between what Lord Irwin earns and what an average Indian earns. His use of examples and information help justify his idea of this Salt Satyagraha act of civil disobedience.
Gandhi’s use of words and language also helped aid his preposition for an idea like civil disobedience. One of the most powerful significance in this letter is the fact that Gandhi – standing up on behalf of the Indians – is writing a prescriptive English letter to the British lord. In the letter, Gandhi states the fact that “[The curse] has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation and by a ruinously expensive military…” using sophisticated prescriptive language, not only does he get his point across to Lord Irwin, he also uses the power of language to encourage his own people. By using fluent English, he shows that they have the power to stand up against the British too; that they don’t have to forever be looked down upon. Gandhi was also a very religious man and therefore made a lot of religious references. As mentioned in the letter, he believed that the English had “degraded us spiritually”. By using strong religious allusions, Gandhi portrays the importance of this issue in a more professional manner. Religion is a big part of India’s cultural belief, and to put this idea of civil disobedience on the same level means a lot. However, Gandhi also made sure that he wouldn't be misunderstood; that all he wanted was for the Indians to get what they deserved – basic freedom and equality. His choice of words like friend, and ‘gentlemen’, showed that Gandhi didn’t want any harm for the Englishmen. He didn't hate the British for doing this to his people, he just thought of the ruling as a curse.
In this letter, Gandhi uses strategic choice of words and sophisticated language to help portray his idea of nonviolence. By starting the letter in a soft yet clear tone, Gandhi addresses Lord Irwin as ‘friends’, which creates a feeling that India is not just another stranger. With both the strong structure of the letter and his choice of words, Gandhi very successfully conveyed his plan and idea for a nonviolence civil disobedience.