Letter from Birmingham Jail Analysis: Examination of Martin Luther King’s Letter

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In Martin Luther King Jr. s Letter from Birmingham Jail, King discuses the laws of segregation and the morals behind the laws in paragraphs fifteen through fifty. In this section King uses a variety of writing styles or appeals to illustrate his thoughts. The three writing styles that he uses are ethos, pathos, and logos. The Ethos writing style is used to appeal to the reader is sense of ethics. Describing the rights and wrongs in situations can be used to influence the reader and persuade them to understand the author s point of view. Pathos is a writing style that is used to grab the reader emotionally and making them feel sympathetic to the author s point of view. Logos is a writing style that uses logical statements to give the reader facts and point out viewpoints by way of common sense. Martin Luther King Jr. uses all of these writing techniques to help the reader understand his actions and reveal his reasoning behind them. Though these writing techniques are used mostly to persuade readers, it is obvious King isn t trying to persuade his readers. King seems to attempt to open the reader s eyes to the problems of everyday life and encourage them to take action.

In paragraphs fifteen through thirty, Martin Luther King Jr. seems to move from one writing technique to the next very gradually. In paragraphs fifteen through twenty-three King uses the Ethos appeal. In paragraphs twenty-three through twenty-seven King transfers to the Pathos formality. In paragraphs twenty-eight through thirty, King changes his writing form again, using the logical appeal. I enjoy reading King s writing when he uses pathos because it gives the opportunity to place oneself in Martin Luther King s shoes. In my opinion, it is a lot easier to understand King s point of views when you can relate to the situation. I also believe that when an authors writing affects your emotions it is easier to concentrate on what the author is expressing.

In paragraph twenty-three in Letter from Birmingham Jail, King uses the emotional appeal to illustrate his disappointment with the White Moderate. King expresses in this paragraph that it isn t so much the white citizen s councilor or the Ku Klux Klan that is the Negro s stumbling block in stride toward freedom, but rather the White Moderate. King holds the White Moderate responsible for maintaining segregation because of their devotion to law and order rather than justice. As King writes this, he points a finger and uses guilt to get his reader s attention. King gets his readers to look at the situation from a different angle and feel a sense of empathy. King continues the paragraph by targeting the White Moderate again by revealing their knowledge of the unjust situation but their unwillingness to act upon it. I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action. King uses typical quotes of the White Moderate to explain to them that they aren t doing anything to help change the unjust laws and disagree with King s methods of direct action, but expect for the laws to be justified gradually overtime. King expresses his frustration in hopes of getting a sympathetic reaction from the White Moderate.