20 October 2013
Martin Luther King Jr.
Reading through the commentaries of George E. Carter and Keith D. Miller, another perspective of Martin Luther King Jr. was exposed to me, that I was unaware of when first reading his famous works such as, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, and his famous speech, “I Have a Dream”. Both men offered a different side of their views on MLK, providing analysis on his rhetorical writing styles as well as his influences in his writings. Transcendentalism can be seen in works of Martin Luther Kings, but his influences in his writing reach much further than that ranging from his Christian roots all the way to his findings while reading works of Gandhi.
George E. Carter’s analytical response to Martin Luther King Jr.’s literary work illustrates MLK’s works reflecting latent Transcendentalist views. American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau had influence on Martin Luther King Jr.’s literature, shown in his work called “Letter from Birmingham”. While in jail, he asked the same question to the white religious leaders of the South as Thoreau did to the latter when asked why he was in jail, which was, “What are you doing out there?”. Overemphasis on the influence of Thoreau has distorted the picture according to Carter, he believed that Martin Luther King Jr. “would have found valuable, support, inspiration, and ideas parallel to his own” (318 Carter) from lesser-known Transcendentalist. For example, Carter supports his reasoning when he states, “If King, for example, had read the well-known Unitarian minister and reformer, Theodore Parker, he would have found a source for his own “higher criticism” approach to the study of the Bible.”(319 Carter). George E. Carter later goes on to state how Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. are fundamentally different from each other. An example of their differences can be shown when looking at what each person’s primary interest are, Carter illustrated this when he explains, “Thoreau, like most other Transcendentalists, was primarily interested in reform of the individual while King was primarily interested in reform of society.” (321 Carter). While speaking on the interests of Thoreau, Carter further backs his position when stating, “While he encouraged others to adopt similar protests, he did not attempt to mount any mass action against unjust practices” (321 Carter), referring to Martin Luther King Jr. in his action against mistreatments of African Americans. Ultimately, through reading Carter’s analysis on Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, I have developed the knowledge that although Thoreau influenced MLK, he fundamentally adhered to a different primary interest.
Keith D. Miller illustrates the rhetorical strategies used by Martin Luther King Jr. in his literature through his commentary. Miller states that, “King’s social gospel directly reflects the theology of his father, his grandfather and Borders.” (76 Miller). Miller goes on to support his reasoning when he explains, “Their non violent protests- not his reading of Thoreau, Gandhi, Nelson, or Wofford-provided his initial and most significant lessons in nonviolence.” (76 Miller). Miller continues on to analyze King’s rhetorical strategies when addressing the issue of repetition. Martin Luther King Jr. uses reputation throughout his “I Have a Dream” speech. Miller discusses that repetition is an effective tool when preaching a message; he does this when he states, “it helps ensure congregational participation.”(76 Miller), and also when he explains, “A homilist develops authority by embracing well-loved disclosure, creating a voice by melding it with those of previous speakers.”(76 Miller). MLK uses repetition as a way to embed the message in the audiences’ head so it wont be forgotten easily, repetition was also used to show significance in the message being delivered. Another main point of repetition was the audience had a sense of unity...
Cited: King Martin Luther, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay. New York: Norton, 1997. 1854 – 66.
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