The rhetorical analysis on Martin Luther King’s letter while in Birmingham jail is
considered one of the most influential letters written throughout history. Martin Luther King is also considered one of the most influential individual in the history of the American Civil Rights movement. King’s contribution is critical not only evidenced through his active participation in boycotts, but also through his writings. A significant example of contributions through writings is the Birmingham Letter that he wrote from jail after being accused of demonstrating against racial segregation in Alabama. To help air his complaints against racial segregation, King uses rhetorical tools that comprise of ethos, pathos, and logos. The letter successfully captures the theme of racial segregation because the author applies rhetorical devices effectively to air his grievances and justify the reasons behind active course of action.
In the letter that King addresses to the Alabama clergymen, the use of rhetorical appeals of ethos is evident through establishment of a credible subject regarding racial discrimination as well as justice. Take for example the introductory statement: “My Dear Fellow Clergymen.” This is clear indication that King asserts that he is within the same level with the clergymen and as such indicating that the clergymen are not beneath him, nor is he better than them.
Furthermore, he argues that his presence happens because of his organizational ties and argues his reasons to be in jail as those resulting from injustice. Further appeal to use of pathos occurs when King shows all the trials and tribulations that the African Americans undergoes and endures. That is evidenced through the use of such a line...
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...issuing a statement that ‘it is impossible to forget the actions of Adolf Hitler in Germany as actions considered ‘legal’ together with the actions that were considered ‘illegal’ of the Hungarian freedom fighters in Hungary (Guillaume and Turner, 56).
The use of historical knowledge by King enhances in proving his point for active action while at the same time enhancing his audience to capture his message in a better means. Further, another sign of the use of ethos is evidenced through his moral in that he makes a quote that there is need among the overall society to ensure that nonviolent gadflies that promote tension within societies and eventually rising through the route of darkness to encourage discrimination on the basis of rate. That is a moral perspective because King captures the main goal to capture all people within the society using a peaceful approach.
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