“Letter from Birmingham Jail” Literary Analys Essay
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” was written in 1963; during the time African Americans were fighting for equality among races. We can tell this by the vocabulary used in his writing such as “Negro,” which was used at one time, and is no longer considered, “politically correct. “ The purpose for the letter is that Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to convince the white clergymen that him and his “People’s” actions were completely unnecessary for the situation. When doing this, he uses critical and persuasive tones to try to influence the reader to agree with him. Martin Luther King Jr. provides a valid argument using logos, pathos, and ethos throughout his letter.
The use of comparison in Dr. King’s letter makes the African American’s trouble of segregation seems, just about holy. He compares being arrested for his peaceful but illegal actions to the crucifixion of Jesus for his “unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion.” Martin Luther King, Jr. ties himself to God by suggesting that above constitutional rights and legal laws are God-given rights, and these rights are the ones that he and his followers are supporting. He says that just laws, are laws that “Square with moral law or the law of God.” King resumes this religious association in his last paragraph, where he mentions blacks who conduct sit-ins as “children of God” who stand up for “the most scare Values in our Judeo-Christian heritage.” These similarities make Dr. King and his men seem to be fighting an almost heavenly cause, one that has the support of God and of history.
King also uses his voice through writing to educe emotion. Aside from his associations to God and Socrates, which may help religious readers better connect to his message, Martin Luther King Jr., writes about the emotional suffering that blacks went through due to segregation and prejudice. He replies to whites telling blacks to “wait” for desegregation by bringing up several murders committed by whites on blacks, including lynching, drowning, and police cruelty. He continues on these emotional out looks by expressing how children begin to become disturbed by segregation when they realize that they are considered lesser to whites.
King uses definite examples, such as a daughter who finds out that she can’t visit an amusement park because it is closed to colored children, and a son who asks, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?” He shows how the build-up of these thoughts in black children eventually turn into hatred for whites when he says, “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.” All of these statements help the reader see just how blacks were disturbed beyond decency and rightfulness. King’s use of emotional writing helps readers develop sympathy for the segregated.
Martin Luther King Jr., is trying to tell the white clergymen what he feels they are doing wrong. He uses so many different emotional pulls at the attempt to grab their attention. He does a great job of doing this through referring to the bible and about children. Through the use of rhetorical strategies, Martin Luther King Jr. countered the clergymen’s argument. He also got their attention due to his unique strategy of directly addressing his readers, the clergymen, to create the base of his argument. From there, King is able to shatter his opponent’s claims. This way of arguing allowed King to present his argument with more authority to achieve his goal: justify the reasons for nonviolent demonstrations against segregation.
I feel as if Martin Luther King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” had a great impact on the rights of black people during his time. The fact that is still read today proves it’s a great piece of writing. From my point of view he was in the right with every opinion he expressed; I honestly don’t see how you couldn’t agree with him. His writing is not only changing the world, but is entertainment to read. In the closing of his letter he says “I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that the circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergymen and a Christian brother.” This is the hope of many people; we are getting closer each day to having his hope become a reality. I believe this letter had a huge impact on many people’s lives, and will continue to change the world.
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