Rhetorical Analysis of Letter from Birmingham Jail W/ Focus on Ethos

1587 Words Mar 20th, 2015 7 Pages
MLK Letter From Birmingham Jail Rhetorical Analysis- w/ focus on Ethos

“...we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders…” In this quote, from the third paragraph of the letter written by eight Alabama clergymen, the term outsiders is used. Early on, this creates a label for Martin Luther King, outsider. Throughout his Letter From Birmingham Jail, King is able appeal to ethos in order to refute his title of “outsider” and generate a connection with his audiences, the clergymen and the people of America. King is able to do such a thing by alluding to multiple passages from the Bible as well as the figures it contains, which is done so that he may identify
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He moves further into this by saying in paragraph two “I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.” By stating his association with this national religious organization, he asserts that he is a very pious man and that he too has been blessed with authority from God. This is essential to his character in regards to the clergymen as they too receive authority from God, thus creating a sense of equality. By creating this identity king affectively appeals to ethos and creates a stronger moral character with his audience. Furthermore, this also gives King the ability to refute being an outsider. Since he is part of a larger organization, which has branches within the state, how can he, a man of the church, be an outsider if he was welcomed here as stated in paragraph two, where the passage reads “..the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program...So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here.” He has now extinguished the thought of him being an “outsider” and created the image that he is welcome, and should not be considered an outsider. King uses simile and metaphor in his letter in order to accentuate his religious identity and moral sense. In paragraph three, following King’s
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