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Letter from Birmingham Jail Analysis

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  • on April 2, 2014
  • Category: English
  • Length: 1,071 words

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written in Birmingham Jail in 1963 as a response to the Clergymen to explain his actions and also to answer their questions on why he did not call off the demonstrations.   King was a civil rights activist who organized a campaign against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.   In his letter, King uses anaphora and allusions frequently.   He also appeals to ethos, logos, and pathos to make his letter a paradigm of effective rhetoric.  
King uses allusions frequently throughout his letter.   “Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just 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” (King Paragraph 3).   Here King is paralleling his actions to the Apostle’s actions.   By king alluding to the Apostles he appeals to the audience ethically.   Rhetorical questions are also used in the letter to appeal to ethos.   “Now, what is the difference between the two” (Paragraph 16)?   King uses rhetorical questions to make the audience think about what he is asking them.     Along with rhetorical questions, King uses syllogism, where he constructs a conclusion from statements he stated earlier in the letter.   The syllogism in paragraph sixteen, King states, “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.” As he states what A and B are, the conclusion, X, is therefore drawn.   By appealing to ethos, King helps convey his message.   King gains his credibility by saying he follows just laws but breaks unjust laws. "Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience...early Christians who were willing to face hungry lions...rather than submit to certain...

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