Martin Luther King has contributed to the development of African American self-identification. He has created an essential space for enhancing the position of the entire community and decreasing real racial discrimination. Several documents proclaim King’s stance on non-violent protest and the importance of equality in U.S. society. Letter from a Birmingham Jail illustrates the long and complicated road to freedom and power of the pacific movement with the implication of strong ethos, pathos, and logos, and such powerful rhetorical devices like metaphors, allusions, and repetitions.
From the perspective of rhetorical analysis, Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a unique document that involves several efficient devices and motifs that help to influence the comprehension of the audience and mirror the significance of the depicted problem. Martin Luther King masterfully exploits the concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos in his work to strengthen its effects. He appeals to the readers with moral ideas, emotional context, and essential facts. Although King does not use ethos directly, he draws some crucial aspects that prove his credibility and authority in the discussed question.
He admits that the received criticism pieces are worth responding: “But since I feel that you are men of genuine goodwill and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms” (King 1). When the author demonstrates respect to his opponent, he enhances his authority and integrity. Throughout the entire letter, King utilizes factual evidence and moral principles to respond to the criticism.
At the same time, there is no representation of anger or irritation in his words. Per contra, each of King’s arguments mirrors confidence and reliability.
Emotional appeal, or pathos, is a fundamental strength of the analyzed work. Letter from a Birmingham Jail illustrates the suffering of African American people. King’s heartfelt request to humankind to help to reduce the inequality is based on the factual issues of physical and mental discrimination of the racial minority. There are several power lines in the document that aim to awaken the emotions and sympathy of the audience: “…and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children” (King 2). These words impress the reader and encourage the feeling of compassion and empathy. At the same time, King uses the techniques of inspiring the people of color and provides the insight of hope. The closing lines of the letter are essential elements of pathos. These represent the idea of striving and hoping for a better future.
Another significant component of the letter is logos that enhances the power and credibility of the entire message. King operates with facts and logical arguments in his writing. He focuses on the present-day political and social situation. The author aims to defend the value of non-violent protest when building his ideas logically. There are several illustrations of a discriminative and cruel attitude to the people of color: “There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in this nation” (King 1). It is also essential to note the way King designs the sentences and paragraphs. All thoughts are connected that creates a complete picture of events. Step by step, the letter opens up the most important issues of racial discrimination and emphasizes the facts that prove the existence of the problem. It is also crucial that the author develops the opinion uniquely when connecting more real-life situations and events to the subject.
It is also necessary to discuss some rhetorical techniques and devices used by Martin Luther King. The author masterfully uses metaphors throughout the text to enhance its power and influence on the audience. This device allows depicting the painful and sorrowful life of segregated people. The author attempts to demonstrate the rapid speed of changes and revolutionary events: “I had the strange feeling when I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery several years ago that we would have the support of the white church” (King 5). At the same time, these lines conduct the idea that the U.S. is mature enough for accepting these transformations. The metaphors help King to make the text comprehensive and understandable for different types of audience and stimulate the emotional response. It is interesting to focus on the closing part of the letter where metaphors inspire the reader’s thinking and analyzing the described events.
The creation of specific allusions and references to particular events, pieces of literature, and personalities is a typical feature of the King’s speeches and letters. Specifically, the author mentions religious figures and suggests various Christian ideas. It corresponds to his philosophy and role of religious concepts in the development of the movement and its core principles. The importance of love and equality in Christianity is mirrored in the letter by using references to the Bible and other Holy texts. King also mentions the value of religious heritage and the necessity of defending the ideas of truth, love, and respect to people of all races. In this way, he also supports the non-violent method of protesting as the opposition to evil and injustice. King also draws some analogies and historical links to enhance the credibility of the text.
Repetitions and rhetorical questions are also significant components of the text that contribute to its reliability and emotiveness. King uses them to attract the attention of the audience to the African American non-violent protest as a response to the cruel discriminative attitude. These devices help to highlight the blatant cases of injustice experienced by people of color. The continuous repetition of “I” emphasizes the position of the author and his confidence. It is also interesting that King often creates short sentences that sound powerfully and strict. In this way, he may attempt to render the idea of the unshakable civil rights movement.
In conclusion, Martin Luther King focuses on the combination of logical arguments and powerful emotional appeal when creating the analyzed document. Letter from a Birmingham Jail includes several capable rhetorical devices such as metaphors, analogies, allusions, repetitions, and other specific tools for enhancing the influence of the text on the audience and accurate transmission of the ideas of equality, freedom, and reduction of discrimination for African Americans. King successfully develops ethos, pathos, and logos of the letter that makes it an important written monument of the civil rights movement.