Rhetorical Appeals in Letter from Birmingham Jail
This essay will provide a detailed analysis of the rhetorical strategies used by Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” It will explore King’s masterful use of ethos, pathos, and logos to present his argument for civil rights and justice, examining how he persuades his audience through moral reasoning and emotional appeal. Moreover, at PapersOwl, there are additional free essay samples connected to Letter From Birmingham Jail.
Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr discusses a letter to a group of white clergies who questioned and criticized his activities in Birmingham, Alabama. He argues to promote the urgent need for and biblical soundness of nonviolent protest. He addresses the claims made about his arrest by the eight clergymen. His letter is directed to his audience, which consists of white middle-class citizens who Dr. King refers to as the ‘white moderates’. Martin Luther King’s adherence towards peace and especially social justice is clearly shown in “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In this letter King writes with passion and conviction. Through this suggestive yet powerful letter Martin Luther King uses various rhetorical devices to get his point across by saying “justice too long delayed, is justice denied.” Through the clergymen’s arguments and use of ethos, pathos, and logos, he demonstrates to them that they need to take action immediately.
He addresses their feelings on the issues that are surrounding Birmingham, helping them to come to the realization that this was in fact what they were thinking and saying, and that they need to act on it for anything to change. King refutes their argument for waiting for justice by pointing out that no gains in civil rights have ever been made “”without determined legal and nonviolent pressure,”” because “”privileged groups”” rarely give up their privileges without such pressure. He further asserts that individuals are likely to see the truth of immoral actions and be willing to make changes, but groups, whose members solidify each other’s views with pressures, never come to understand what of their actions are immoral: “”groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”” For this reason, King knows that progress in civil liberties can only be made if the group of racist whites holding onto their privileges are pressured into extending their privileges towards others. Then, he mentions “”Negro community”” it was not deliberating choosing a provocative option but, in fact, their only option: “”the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.””
How it works
Dr. King’s letter is very persuasive because his use of pathos makes the audience think or imagine themselves in the situation. It is very poignant of him to write his letter this way. He is in touch with the views of his audience, which makes a greater impact on his readers. Martin Luther King Jr is very credible in my perspective as he was the one who stood up for blacks overall. Martin Luther King’s adherence towards peace and especially social justice is clearly shown in “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In this letter King writes with passion and conviction. Through this suggestive yet powerful letter Martin Luther King uses various rhetorical devices to get his point across by saying “justice too long delayed, is justice denied.” Through the clergymen’s arguments and use of ethos, pathos, and logos, he demonstrates to them that they need to act immediately. King uses irony, by giving examples of him using peaceful actions that were condemned anyway because they were said to “precipitate violence”. He went on to say, “Isn’t that like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated in the evil act of robbery” (King). Dr. King also realizes that the white moderates are mostly religious. He reminds them “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability, it comes through tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God” (King). Again, he urges the audience to get up and become active, and that there will be no change without their action.