Theme Of Pathos In Letter From Birmingham Jail

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In Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham Jail, pathos, ethos, and logos are vividly expressed throughout it. All three rhetorical devices are vital to the meaning of the letter; the most influential being pathos. MLK takes advantage of the human body’s strong response to emotion. It is illustrated in his appeal to empathy, exercised mainly through gruesome depictions; his call for action to his peers, as shown when he expresses his disappointment in them as they preserve order over justice; and his strategic use of pathos as a supporting effort for both ethos and logos arguments. MLK depicted gruesome imagery throughout his letter in order to force the white clergymen to feel the Negros pain. For instance, he mentions how Negros have tried many times to negotiate, and were left with ‘Broken promises, blasted hopes.’(King) Whites had always told the Negros to wait, that their segregation will end eventually. MLK describes the word ‘wait’ as it “rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity,” (King), “It’s easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say ‘wait’.”(King) MLK’s choice of poignant wording to describe the Negros pain and suffering is effectively what helps deliver those feelings onto the white clergymen. While gruesome imagery is placed throughout his letter, MLK also dedicates an entire section of his letter solely to gain their understanding. “When you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro …show more content…

It is clear that he uses pathos as his most potent tool for persuasion. Be it a way to depict gruesome imagery, a way to supplement his call to action, or as an enhancement for both his ethos and logos arguments, his strategic use of pathos is what drove the letter’s meaning to the hearts of

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