The Letter from Birmingham Jail Essay

The Letter from Birmingham Jail Essay

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On April 16, 1963, from a jail in Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. composed an extensive letter to eight clergymen who condemned the timing of the civil rights movement. Although the letter was addressed to these eight clergymen, the Letter from Birmingham Jail speaks to a national audience, especially King’s “Christian and Jewish brothers”(King, 29). His peaceful but firm letter serves as a remarkably persuasive voice to an immensely chaotic mess, and is seen as a major turning point in the civil rights movement. King believes that without direct action, the full rights for African Americans could never be achieved. He defends the impatience of people in the civil rights movement, upholding that without forceful demonstrations, equality will never be reached. King upholds that human rights must take precedence over unjust laws. His eloquent language and use of classical argumentation make his case resilient and convincing. King’s expert use of pathos invokes anger, sympathy and empathy; his impeccable use of logos made his argument rational to all; and his use of ethos, especially his use of biblical references, makes his opinions more authoritative.
Through his vivid descriptions, passionate tone, and expressive examples, King’s arguments evoke an emotional response in his readers. King’s use of pathos gives him the ability to inspire fellow civil rights activists, evoke empathy in white conservatives, and create compassion in the minds of the eight clergymen and the rest of his national audience. King seeks to lessen the aggression of white citizens while revitalizing the passion for nonviolent protest in the minds of African Americans. King cautions, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (K...


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...ivil rights movement.
Overall, I believe King’s letter his extremely influential due to his impeccable use of argument within it, incorporating logos, pathos and ethos. In my opinion, King’s use of pathos is one of the factors behind the success of his letter. Although his letter was addressed to the eight clergymen, I believe that King intended for the entire nation to read it and react to it. The variety of literary devices in his letter makes King sound intelligent and convincing. On the other hand, I believe that King incorporates too much alliteration within his letter; many times, King makes a historical or biblical reference without delving into its relevance or meaning, leaving the reader questioning his intentions. In my opinion, if King would have described these alliterations more or, rather, left them out entirely, his argument would be deeper.

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