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Ethos, Pathos & Logos in Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

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Introduction

Ethos, Pathos & Logos in Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" A writer's tone, word choice, length of sentences, stated concerns, fairness to other opinions, and statements of emotion all contribute to the readers' sense of who the writer is as a person. By quoting religious leaders like St. Augustine, "an unjust law is no law at all", Dr. King creates the ethos of a spiritual leader. He further develops this ethos by demonstrating his knowledge of the conditions and circumstances of early Christian leaders. Dr. King states, "Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid". By comparing his situation to Paul's, be it effective or not, Dr. King not only shows his knowledge of Paul's early response to the Macedonian but also implies that he too is on a spiritual mission. Further, Dr. King includes his feelings when he states certain facts: "Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily". How does his inclusion of his feeling change the reader's feeling or understanding of Dr. ...read more.

Middle

fog of misunderstanding" and "fear-drenched communities" to the hopefulness that he feels is possible through non-violent demonstration in "the radiant stars of love and brotherhood" that in some not too distant future will "shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty". Through the association of the ending of a rainstorm with the ending of segregated life, Dr. King hopes white people will begin to glimpse the emotional experience of escaping the horrors and pains of segregation. Repetitive language can also make an emotional appeal, emphasizing points as if with the background of a beating drum. Dr. King builds both emotional momentum and power through his repetitive words and sentence structure in "Was not Jesus an extremist," "Was not Amos an extremist," "Was not Paul an extremist," etc. In making an appeal to logic, as with the personal essay, giving details first allows a reader to understand more clearly statements of reasoning and feelings. In his response to the patience requested by white ministers, Dr. King first supplies the everyday details of African American life: "vicious mobs lynching your mothers and fathers" and "drowning your brothers and sisters," "hate-filled policemen cursing, kicking and even killing ...read more.

Conclusion

His reasoning includes the fact that the white moderate does not seem to recognize "that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice," that the tension in the South is there due to segregation, that the tension will erupt into violence if it is not the source of a transition to equality, and that to ask Negroes to "passively accept" the indignities of segregation is to deny them their "dignity and worth" as a human being. Another type of appeal to logic is more implicit. It asks readers to see into the presented facts. In quoting an elderly black woman, "My feets is tired but my soul is at rest", Dr. King makes such an appeal. He mentions that her statement is grammatically incorrect, emphasizing her lack of education and his awareness of such. Why draw attention to this fact? To point out that even the uneducated know and sense the magnitude of the injustice of segregation. In other words, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the inequity of the current situation. ...read more.

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