Letter from a Birmingham Jail Analysis
Ethos is author’s reputation, credentials and trustworthiness in an argument. King first establishes ethos in his letter through addressing the audience as "fellow clergymen." It lays out a warming and trustworthy tone that, despite his leadership, brings him onto familiar levels with the audience. In the second paragraph, King mentions “I have the honor of serving as president of Southern Christian Leadership conference". Through this, he has establishes his credibility to a greater extent. Through the first ten paragraphs King uses history to set up his credibility. He quotes Bible verses and stories, which reveals him as a knowledgeable man of God. King states “so I am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to Macedonian call for aid." While establishing his virtuous nature, he also demonstrates his wisdom. He does so by quoting from historical ...view middle of the document...
King mentions the torment blacks had to face and puts it into perspective. He states that “hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brother and sisters and vast majority of twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty.".He continues to explain the cruel punishment and behaviors blacks receive and their reasons to demand change now., King describes the life of blacks “…you spend night after night in your car because no motel will accept you. Day and night you are humiliated by nagging signs; when your first name is “nigger” and middle name is “boy." King attempts to put the audience into the shoes of blacks and put into perspective the discriminations they received, especially through using the word “you”. He states "for more then two centuries our forebears labored without wages; they made cotton …built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail."
Martin Luther King uses logos to further strengthen his arguments. Logos is a logical appeal in an argument. Throughout the letter, King has established himself as well educated and well informed. He gave a very clear definition of “just and unjust” laws “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distort the soul and damages the personality." It gives a false sense of inferiority and superiority to the people in a society. King further argued ineffectiveness of bad laws by giving an analogy that, “ If law and justice fail, they become dangerously structured dam that blocks the flow of social progress." He gives example of Hitler and states that "everything Hitler did was legal and everything a Hungarian did in Hungary was illegal." According to Hitler’s Germany, extermination of Jews was legal but unjust. He implies that and discrimination against Blacks is legal but unjust. Martin Luther King strengthened his argument by logically clarifying a meaning of being an “extremist”. He referred Jesus, Paul, Martin Luther as extremists motivated by “love, truth and goodness," much like himself.