Rhetorical Appeal Usage in Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter, Birmingham City Jail

Rhetorical Appeal Usage in Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter, Birmingham City Jail

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The mighty river flows through the mountains with liquidity and nurture providing life for all those who wish to take a sip from it. Yet the river is powerful in its own force destroying even the largest rocks, crumbling them into small pieces. People may be able to stop the river for a short time or even dry it up but the water always comes back in one form or another, every dam is bound to fail. Some people have been able to harness the power of the river, redirecting the mighty water making it flow in constructive ways. Similar to the river, language is influential. Its true power is not seen by the naked eye but by those who study it, those who use it as their ally in a war of linguistics. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter, Birmingham City Jail he is able to use all three rhetorical appeals to prove that demonstrations lead to negotiations and benefit for both sides of an argument.
Martin Luther King Jr. uses the rhetorical appeal of Logos to provide a sense of logic and reason within his letter. When he is accused of resorting to demonstrations rather than attempting negotiations King provides his four step plan to a successful nonviolent campaign, listing direct action as the final step and negotiations as the second. This point peacefully refutes the clergymen’s accusations and does not provoke a new argument. King also uses facts to prove a point such as, “There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than and city in the nation.” (King, ¶-5) This quotation validates King’s reasoning to be in Birmingham for demonstrations and not just negotiation.
Among his use of logic King also uses the rhetorical appeal of Ethos to show his credibility and explain his reasoning for demonstrations. ...


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...ring to the example of a river and language it is easy to see how Martin Luther King Jr. utilizes the rivers destructive force to his advantage. He is able to combine diction and syntax to form the perfect letter filled with logical, creditable and emotional appeal to the audience. His words flow together in harmony while having a weathering effect on the mind, heart and soul. This is why Martin Luther King Jr. is able to successfully use rhetorical appeals to prove that nonviolent demonstrations will lead to negotiations and benefits for both sides. Birmingham City Jail was a private letter not intended to be read by the entire world and yet it still has the ability to stimulate a response in its unintended audience. What literature today can do this? Perhaps we can be the ones to create it just by chasing what we believe in and showing the world that we are right.

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