September 25, 2012
Rhetorical Analysis of Letter from Birmingham Jail
While sitting in a city jail in Birmingham, Alabama for participating in a protest against segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. responds to a published statement by eight fellow clergymen. Dr. King uses ethos, pathos, logos and the Rogerian tactic to make the claim that he belongs in Birmingham because he has ties there and is an invited guest, not an outsider.
Specifically, Dr. King uses ethos by saying "I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” (212), this gains our trust by showing that he is involved in the community. He also states “To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas” (216), using the name of St. Thomas Aquinas shows that he is credible and willing to cite other people of authority. Finally, Dr. King says “Was not Jesus an extremist for love” (219). His use of comparison to someone that is highly regarded and loved makes us trust him.
For instance, to illustrate pathos Dr. King uses the word “confined” (212). This word makes us empathize with him due to his loss of freedom. “They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen” (218). This gives us a visual of what type of hardships were endured and makes us wonder if we would do it. His words “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted” (223). The words dark clouds, deep fog and the hope that they are lifted make us think of hate as a thunderstorm that will end with minimal damage.
Furthermore, logos is used by Dr. King to show logic and reasoning. In his statement “I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms” (212), Dr. King, himself says that he wants to be reasonable. “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights” (215) it is logical to...