Thoreau Vs. King Essay, Research Paper
Civil disobedience, standing up for what you believe in, and willingly being able to suffer the consequences for that cause are ideas that both Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. hold dearly and express persuasively in their respectable pieces, Civil Disobedience, and Letter From Birmingham Jail. Although the two stylistically coincide in many elements, the have their share of differences as well.
The most evident of the differences is the contrasting persuasive methods used by each man. King delivered the most logical and convincing facts in his writing. His piece is filled with countless examples from history, quotes from respectable sources, as well as impressive facts and data. Logos prevails throughout most of the work, with the most logical element coming from whom his letter was addressed to. My Dear Fellow Clergymen: instantly lets his readers know that he s a good guy as well as reminding the reader that the men who are against his work as a civil rights activist are good guys as well. They aren t only his colleagues, but men of God, virtuous and holy men. King knows to remind these men of their positions as well by constantly referring to the Bible, God, Christ, and other powerful religious figureheads for some of his most cogent support. How can his opposition argue with Jesus Christ was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness by condemning King for being an extremist, condemning King for being Christ-like? They simply can t. Thoreau also called on authorities and presented a few convincing facts in his argument, but focused intensely on being ethical. A myriad of rhetorical questions flow continuously throughout his piece, constantly keeping the reader thinking. Thinking about right and wrong. Thinking about the conscience. Would they be able to live morally and safely in a society where everyone knew right from wrong, and knew better than to violate their conscience? Could such a society ever exist? And would they, as a person, be able to exist in such a lawless utopia? The effect of all these questions, asked by Thoreau directly in the piece, and those created by the reader as they scramble for answers to Thoreau s questions, is a presentation made by Thoreau of what is ethical. Thoreau also turns to aspects of syntax, organization, and diction to let his reader know what is right and wrong, but his predominant use of ethos reasoning is what grabs the reader by the arm and refuses to let go until they agree.
One of the elements of syntax that makes it impossible for the reader to break free from the strong clench that both pieces possess is repetition. Repetition is great for emphasizing importance, and creates a very clear connection between ideas. Both men repeat sentence structures to tie their ideas together and repeatedly use rhetorical questions to keep the readers attentive and involved. The reiteration of strong and powerful diction helps set the tones and feelings of the authors. This valuable use of word choice teamed with the amazing effects of repetition make it crystal clear as to when King is feeling polite, irate, or a little sarcastic, or if Thoreau wants to be contentious or thought provoking.
Ideas, word choice, and rhetorical strategies parallel the two essays together. Martin Luther King Jr. directly alludes to Thoreau s ideas on civil disobedience, while Thoreau, who notably lived and wrote long before King was born, was in a sense also in agreement with King s philosophies in his piece. (Since Thoreau didn t support the Mexican War, he was also opposing slavery; therefore standing up for the same civil rights King was fighting for many years later.) This theme of civil disobedience and its importance in the creation and maintenance of an equal and just society is emphasized in just about every way imaginable. Though the authors took greatly different approaches to their arguments, both persuaded beautifully, powerfully, and effectively.