King's Use of Rhetorical Strategies in "Letter From Birmingham Jail"

Topics: Law, Rhetoric, Letter from Birmingham Jail Pages: 3 (924 words) Published: November 19, 2014
The Use of Rhetorical Strategies in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

How does the diction of a literary work help to convey the writer's message? Is there a specific way it helps the author persuade you? Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" displays many forms of rhetorical strategies, language, and diction in order to help convey his message of "unjust" or "just" laws. The diction in this literary work is very important in aiding King to help convey his message. By appealing to pathos a lot, he creates a feeling of hope and despair for the reader to choose which is more prominent in the lives of African Americans. King wrote the "Letter" in response to the eight clergymen from Alabama who called his actions "untimely and unwise". When he explains the reasons for him being in jail, King uses the argument that this injustice that was in Birmingham was everywhere and that people needed to do something about it. King's diction, historical and biblical allusions, and rhetorical questions compose his eloquent diction in "Letter" that helps him show the importance non-violently fighting for rights.

King used many historical allusions to exemplify his reasoning for the rights of his people. Similar to the beliefs of Thoreau, human laws may sometimes contradict the most basic rights given to man by a higher being. King supported his argument by stating, "We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal' and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was 'illegal.'" (210). These laws passed in Germany were man-made laws that contradicted higher laws and peoples' religions. Even though the concentration camps were horrible and disgusting acts forced on the Jewish people, they can't be condemned, legally, because they did not come into conflict with Germany's laws. This example helped to show how the legality of an act can often be a threat to the lives of many people. By doing this,...

Cited: King Jr., Martin Luther, "Letter from Birmingham Jail". 50 Essay: A Portable Anthology. 4th Edition. Boston: Bedfort/St. Martin 's, 2011. 203-217 (Print).
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