Letter From Birmingham Jail Rhetorical Analysis

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In Martin Luther King’s “A Letter from Birmingham Jail”, the rhetorical appeals of kairos, logos and especially pathos are implied heavily throughout the piece, effectively responding to the absurdity of the eight clergymen’s letter and to the civil disobedience displayed in the racial protests. Over the course of the letter, MLK makes multiple allusions to ancient philosophers, such as Socrates and Aquinas, as well as Bible verses and their lessons. King establishes himself as someone who is educated in the events happening in the community of Birmingham. Providing endless examples of personal anecdotes and details of the horrific events that he finds upsetting supports his knowledge on the civil disobedience. “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights.” (Language Acts!175) MLK’s progress embodies respect and dignity, however because of the emotional appeals he is drawn to fight for the cause, and will not remain inactive. Martin Luther King relies on his extensive use of pathos to pull sympathy and guilt from the audience, the clergymen and people of Birmingham. The major moments of pathos in "Letter from Birmingham Jail" come in the parts about the suffering of the African American community. In order for MLK's argument to make sense, he supplied personal anecdotes for the audience to understand why the situation is unjust. So he gives a vivid picture of what Black Americans had to go through in the segregated South. “...when you suddenly find your tongue-twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children.”( Language Acts!) I find the above section to evoke the most empathy (in my eyes) because it speaks to the child; the effects of racism and segregation on those too young to understand. It also opens the eyes as to the bitterness segregation bred in those children to the clergymen, whom work directly with them and for the children to be told "no", to be told you "can't", to be cheated of dreams and hopes, and to be made to feel hopeless. This
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