Rhetorical Analysis on Letter From Birmingham Jail - Paper Example

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Carnegie Mellon University
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Letter from Birmingham Jail' was composed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a solitary custody cell in Birmingham, Alabama. Some parts of the letter were composed and cautiously conveyed out by Luthers lawyer on pieces of toilet paper (Sphalen, 2008). Brutal racists horror against African Americans was so intense in Birmingham 1963 that the town had been named Bombingham. Martin Luther King had been arrested for taking part in a peaceful demonstration on the basis that he had no permit for it. His letter therefore determines and answers to all the nine specific criticisms which he comprehends as being made by the clergymen. The paper, therefore, aims to discuss what the author of Letter from Birmingham is trying to put across. The essay has also analyzed the types or arguments and rhetorical appeals present in the letter.

The motive behind the letter that Martin Luther King is attempting to convince the clergymen they, Martin Luther King and his people demonstrated as it was unquestionably necessary during that time (Sphalen, 2008). Therefore, he makes use of convincing and condemnatory tones to try to get the reader to concur with him. Martin Luther King gives a logical argument using pathos, those and logos throughout his entire work. He is aware of where the black people are coming from in their quest for equal rights. The argument discloses the injustice across the nation and attacks both segregation and the silence behind it. Kings strength as a rhetorician and zeal for fairness is demonstrated with the use of allusions to shape the argument of his letter. As his letter starts, King contends nothing like an outsider exists as all people are interrelated. He, therefore, applies antithesis to reinforce his idea. Martin Luther King asserts that Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Martin Luther King has made use of different strategies in his argument. He has used metaphors, alliteration, loaded language, metaphors and anaphora to deliver his point to his audience (Sphalen, 2008). For example, he uses loaded language to assist him to get across the terrors that were happening to the black people. He has also used emotionally loaded words like kick, kill and curse in his argument. With the application of metaphors, he has been able to get his point home. For instance, he makes a comparison of the progress African-Americans gaining rights in Africa and Asia to the speed of a jet.

The writer uses the argument of fact when he tries to convince the audience of his letter. For instance, he convinces the clergymen that the call for the peaceful demonstration was necessary as there was unequal treatment between the whites and the blacks. He also uses an argument of a proposal in his letter in his attempts to unify the nation in equal rights for all the people. He, therefore, provides three reasons why it is important for him to be championing for civil rights in Birmingham.

Throughout the work, Martin Luther King makes use of rhetorical appeals to ethos in his letter. He demonstrates that he is both rational and knowledgeable when he states that they had been patient for over 340 years for their constitutional God-given rights(Sphalen, 2008). This is rational as the clergymen are telling him to wait, and King had waited for 340 year shows that he is reasonable. He also illustrates his knowledge when he asserts and says that whatever Adolf Hitler did in Germany was legal and whatever the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was illegal.

The other rhetorical appeal that Martin Luther King, Junior makes use of is pathos. On the second page, he says that when you stammer and twist your tongue as you try to explain to your six-year old daughter why she cannot go to the amusement park just advertised on television only because colored children cannot go to Funtown. The explanation is a good case of pathos as it is a general issue that would subject anyone to feel guilty or sorrowful, as people are more sympathetic to children and a logical person would be sympathetic when reading this.

King also makes use of logos in his letter to support his counter argument against the clergymen. Therefore, he attempts to backup the fact that (they) had no alternative except to prepare for direct action (Sphalen, 2008). Nevertheless, King, Jr. has a significant number of relevant examples of proof to support his idea. He, therefore, proves his point in several ways like using historical evidence in his letters. Martin Luther King Jr. also uses logical fallacies like appeals to authority. For instance, he writes, Thomas Jefferson: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... therefore informing the audience that he believes in the truth of the statement.


As discussed in the paper, Dr. King continuously appeals to different strategies in the entire work; especially when he asserts that he was upset for being classified as a fanatic who later gradually gained a matter of gratification from the label. Despite the beliefs upheld throughout Alabama during that time, it is quite difficult to not to concur with a point made very clear in common sense. He makes use of pathos to support his point, for example, he asks whether they will be extremists for love or hate. Although this is an appeal to pathos, it is directly supporting the conclusion arrived at with the use of logos.

Works Cited

Sphalen 2008, Argument Analysis and Evaluation: MLK Jr's "Letter from Birmingham Jail Retrieved from http://blogs.ccsd.edu/phalen1011/2008/12/07/argument-analysis-and-evaluation-mlk-jrs-letter-from-birmingham-jail/


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