Rhetorical Analysis on Martin Luther King Junior’s Letter from Birmingham Jail
In Martin Luther King Junior’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, MLK uses ethos, logos, and pathos powerfully and effectively to present his argument that the discrimination of African Americans all over the country is unbearable and should be outlawed forever. King wrote the letter in Birmingham, Alabama after a peaceful protest against segregation which was King’s way of reinforcing his belief that without forceful, direct actions (such as his own), true civil rights could never be achieved.
Ethos, ethical appeal and credibility as a writer, is portrayed in every word in this letter. King’s language is more than appropriate to the audience and subject, and his presentation is sincere and fair minded. 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, non-blaming manner. The following opening statement King presents reveals his sincere intentions and response to the very subject that has torn his heart into pieces and yet, he still stands calm and ready to face it with sophistication. …I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely”… since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable in terms. But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here… (King 204)
The earnestness and calmness in King’s tone is admirable. After years and years of brutal and unjust treatment towards him, his family, and all his African American brothers and sisters he writes to the government officials and the people who have mistreated all African Americans and calls them “men of genuine good will” without hesitance (King 204). This shows immense patience and maturity, and...
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King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”Reading Lit. & Writing Argument. Third Edition. Eds. Missy James and Alan P. Merickel. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, 2008: 204-208, Print.
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