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King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Rhetorical Devices

Updated April 21, 2022
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King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Rhetorical Devices essay

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In King’s“Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he appeals to ethos, logos, and pathos to argue that the clergymen must support and respond to the non-violent protests in order to change to civil rights and help with desegregation. King uses facts and biblical references to establish credibility and gain the trust from the clergymen so they will relate to him and listen to his point of view, therefore using ethos. He uses logos to provide sound logic and argument through parallel structure and “if-then” structure to help gain support as well. Lastly, he uses allusion and imagery developing pathos in order to appeal to the clergymen’s emotions to target their pity, guilt, and sympathy.

Ethos Paragraph

King uses language and biblical references to establish credibility and gain the trust from the clergymen by using ethos.

He begins by declaring that he has, “the honor of serving as President of the Southern Leadership Conference (2).” By revealing this early on, he establishes credibility as well as reveal one of his own qualifications. This position holds value as it is revealing to the clergymen as he is not just a follower, but a leader showing strength in beliefs.

He later argues that, “ was not Martin Luther an extremist; Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, so help me god (28).” This helps demonstrate his religious values that are shared with the clergymen which shows them that they are not that different from him which helps him gain their trust as he is one of their own; their ethical views come from the same beliefs and values. These shared ideas help him appeal to them on a personal level ethically, as desegregation and the treatment of the African Americans throughout history have been anything but ethical. Therefore, it is a moral, and religious obligation for them to help with desegregation.

Logos Paragraph

King uses logos to provide sound logic and argument through parallel structure and “if-then” structure to help gain support from the clergymen.

He argues that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (4).” which is obviously true and makes sense. This is because we should all help each other gain equality and justice in the world, and just generally be treated respectfully as humans..

In regards to the non-violent approach, King explains that through that with tension, “It will inevitably open the door to negotiation (11).” Since the non-violent movement causes tension people must pay attention. The whole situation looks worse in the media to fight non-violence with violence. It is much more productive and civil to sit down rationally and calmly and talk, which is the communication goal to make change peacefully from King and his followers. To get to this, citizens must make it a point of importance to negotiate and make change which is where the clergymen come in; they have a lot of influence on the people of their communities.

Pathos Paragraph

Lastly, King uses allusion and imagery through logos to appeal to the clergymen’s emotions to gain their help and support.

To showcase the injustice that has been going on for so long he explains , “for more than two centuries…labored… without wages…suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation (38).” Reminding them of this shows the injustice that the African American community has suffered through their entire existence in America. As a result. this appeals to the clergymen’s guilt by portraying the story of forced labor which is the exact opposite of what America was founded on:the idea that all men are created equal.

He also appeals to guilt and sympathy when he describes an,”..old, oppressed, battered Negro women (40).” This forces the clergymen to think about and visualize a poor, old, hurt and helpless woman to make them feel pity and guilt about the treatment to those in the community. They can help change it if they so choose to give support. The support is extremely important to desegregation which must be done as segregation is unjust and America was built on the idea of justice.

King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Rhetorical Devices essay

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King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Rhetorical Devices. (2022, Apr 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/kings-letter-from-a-birmingham-jail-rhetorical-devices/

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