Analysis of "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

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Throughout his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King Jr. argues for equal civil rights and the methods he and his followers use to achieve such a simple human right. He mainly utilizes logos to build his argument to the clergymen to whom he is responding. However, in paragraphs thirteen and fourteen, he takes on a completely different approach. Paragraph fourteen, which is comprised mostly of one long sentence, attacks the reader’s emotions through appeals to pathos. Paragraph thirteen opens the following emotional buildup. It focuses on the significance of the word “wait”. Dr. King begins the section by pointing out that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor”(King 13), referring to white segregationists as ‘the oppressor’. He points out how he and his African American brothers and sisters are always advised to “‘Wait!’”, but “This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’”(King 13). In these two sentences, he presents the reader with a subliminal appeal to pathos. When the phrase is preached by the oppressor, the ‘Wait’ is followed by an exclamation mark, exemplifying the whites’ enthusiasm in helping the black community, but only when time permits so. When this resonating phrase is received by the oppressed, the exclamation mark suddenly disappears, expressing the African American community’s general depressive attitude regarding the segregationist views and so­called advice. He uses this example to open into his next paragraph, where he goes straight for the hearts of his readers. To open the fourteenth paragraph, Dr. King states that African Americans have “waited for more than 340 years for [their] constitutional and God­given rights.” (King 14) Stating exactly how many years it has been that he and his brothers and sisters have been denied civil rights and liberties again emphasizes the significance of the repeated phrase “Wait” in
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