Letter From Birmingham Jail By: Brendan Southern Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), was one of the most influential and memorable of that of the civil rights movement. Being a well-educated black christian he appealed to many people of many demographics throughout America. Aside from this, he was highly persuasive, and properly motivated to lead the movement that helped form this country into what it is today. In his letter From a Birmingham jail to his fellow clergymen, he answers questions to clergymen about his actions and views on the civil rights movement.
MLK’s strong, leading tone tells readers that MLK knows what he is seeking, and how he will reach that goal, and why it works in interest to the Clergymen. He uses high vocabulary terms and strong devices to appeal to a more educated audience as well as references to the bible and Hitler to appeal towards more of the less-educated black families. He is attempting to persuade the Clergymen that the actions he is taking and have taken are absolutely viable and necessary.
He is doing so because of his prior arrest and placement in the Birmingham Jail due to his actions of protesting and enforcing the civil rights movement to end the segregation of blacks and whites. Ethos is a very important literary device instilled by MLK. throughout the letter. Ethos appeals to the use of ethics such as credibility and the separation between right and wrong, as well as politics and morality. In an example from this letter, King states that “… who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. This statement is Ethos because King states that breaking a law is wrong but when one does it in accordance to understanding the penalty and knowing their wrong they have very high respect for the law, which appeals to the morality of Ethos.
MLK also says one of the reasons why laws are broken is because they might be unfair or unjust laws which is stated in the first amendment that Americans can peacefully assemble. MLK knew he was going to break the law and go to jail, but he felt the law was unfair so he has the right to do so. Another use of Ethos in the letter is where MLK says that “… ust as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my home town. ” He is stating just as Paul carried the gospel of Jesus Christ, he aswell has a responsibility to carry the gospel of freedom across the nation. King uses Ethos very effectively to appeal to his audience of poor black christians and clergymen, such as examples of the bible and references to Christianity. Pathos is another, similarly used literary device King uses.
Pathos appeals to emotions, and passion. One immediate example of Pathos is King’s saying of “Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as ‘dirty nigger-lovers. ” He uses such a terrible tone that makes the reader feel a certain disgust, about not only his situation, but the entire situation during that time as a whole. Using this device in this way can inspire many emotions and appeal to all people, Clergymen and common black folk of his audience alike.
Another great example of Pathos is when MLK says “There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. ” MLK states that negro homes and churches are more likely of a bomb threat than any other area in the entire nation, which was of course true. This might trigger a sort of sympathy or sadness into the audience, which creates just more reason to listen to King. King very blatantly uses pathos effectively throughout the paper, painting mental images into the audience’s heads and giving everyone a feel of the situation at hand.
Another common literary device found without the letter is Logos. Logos appeals to logic such as facts or statistics. Logos is presented well by MLK, especially when he writes “Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. ” This is quoting Paul Tillich, in the form of proving that in Christianity segregation is frowned upon. MLK makes this point to prove that what he is standing for is against the bible and henceforth already makes no sense. Doing this also further proves that King should not be held in such a way for fighting sin.
A further example of Logos in the letter is when King states ‘We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. “, MLK is trying to appeal to logic in the way that he is convincing his captors to use their logic. He does so by stating that they can free him and everyone in the nation can end the struggle by agreeing to use their time wisely and come to a quick consensus. King skillfully plays Logos in the letter to prove his logic, in the hopes that it opens others to his views.
Doing that could mean nothing but positive consequence for King and the civil rights movement. In King’s letter, or rather responds to his jailing, he successfully installs the 3 literary elements of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. He gives multiple presentations of each in a manner that is most effective. He knows how to use them, and exactly how to appeal to specific yet broad audiences. Using Ethos, he can strike the hearts of politicians and figureheads, turning them towards his cause. Using Pathos, King can paint mental pictures using tune words and go for a wide variety of commonfolk and sympathizers.
By using Logos, he provides logic and persuasive points to help with his case, which could resonate with any variety of people. But, out of the three, the one that provides the most support for his cause would have to be Pathos. The matter at hand is very personal and emotional for many, many, people. The civil rights movement was a call for passion against all men, white or black. King recognizes this and uses it and the nation’s strong emotion to bring many people to the winning cause of the end of segregation.