Essay, Research Paper
Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’ s, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is a widely read persuasive text. In the spring of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other demonstrators were hauled off to jail because of the direct action they took in order to stop the racial injustice that was happening. When King was criticized by a group of white clergymen who blamed him for precipitating the violence, he wrote letter of reply to his colleagues, who were bishops, reverends, and a rabbi. This letter was to be an explanation as to why they incited this action. They were to be his specific audience. But as we discussed in class, it was as if Dr. King wrote this letter knowing that it would reach others and be able to have a profound effect, as to educate and inspire them. So, his specific audience was the clergymen, but indirectly he wrote it for everyone. His forum is hard to tell but because of research done before I know his letter got out on toilet tissue, the margins of newspapers, any scrap of paper available to him. Excerpts of the letter indicate more than just extreme despair and anxiety. They offer a great testimony to the moral concern for oppressed humanity.
Dr. King s letter included all types of claim, fact, definition, cause, value, and policy. His claim of fact was that there were racial injustices in the world, especially Birmingham. He brought up the fact of the unresolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham (737 WP). His claim of definition popped up wherever he decided to explain his actions. He wanted to define the reasons he decided to take that course of action. His claim of cause was the reasons behind the protests. What led them to do it? His claim of value was shown with him writing this letter. He wanted to show that what he did was indeed good. His claim of policy was that everything should change. We should all be equal. Dr. King also gave many examples of proofs. For instance the paragraph on page 739 the starts with I guess appeals to the emotions. This emotional proof is used to appeal and arouse the feelings of the audience. The logical proof is seen in the sentence But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. This proof appeals to people s reason, understanding, and common sense. Next the proof that appeal to the ethos is seen in Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need for nonviolent. This proof appeals to the audience s impressions, opinions, and judgments about the individual stating the argument
Martin Luther King, Jr. uses many writing techniques in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. One of these techniques is his showing the weaknesses of the counter-arguments against him. This is seen in the paragraph, on page 739, where he explains why the Negro race cannot wait any longer to take action, as well as in the paragraph, on page 740, where he explains why it is not wrong for his group break the unjust laws. Another technique King uses is that of civilized and educated disagreement. King presents ideas to his audience in an intelligent and courteous manner. And although the two have opposing ideas, King does not bluntly say that the other is wrong; he merely states his opinions and supports them. In nearly every paragraph King gives a quote or example to strengthen his argument. When proposing the idea that the Negro race had waited long enough for freedom and justice, King cites Chief Justice Earl Warren s expression, justice too long delayed is justice denied. When expressing the fact that it is morally right to break an unjust law , King reminds his audience of St. Augustine s, An unjust law is no law at all. King gives a quote from another great Christian philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas, when explaining to his audience the difference between the two laws (740 WP). He gives, also, examples of and comparisons to events from history and from the Bible. When expressing the idea that immoral actions are sometimes legal, and moral actions are at times illegal, King gives the example of Hitler s declaring the torturing of the Jews to be legal, and the helping of a Jew to be illegal (742 WP). In his work King also cites several of the actions of Jesus Christ, and even refers to Jesus Christ as an extremist when defending his own position as an extremist. The quotes and examples that King gives in reference to his arguments strengthen his argument in a remarkable way.