Rhetorical Analysis Of Letter From Birmingham Jail W/ Focus On Ethos

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MLK Letter From Birmingham Jail Rhetorical Analysis- w/ focus on Ethos

“...we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders…” In this quote, from the third paragraph of the letter written by eight Alabama clergymen, the term outsiders is used. Early on, this creates a label for Martin Luther King, outsider. Throughout his Letter From Birmingham Jail, King is able appeal to ethos in order to refute his title of “outsider” and generate a connection with his audiences, the clergymen and the people of America. King is able to do such a thing by alluding to multiple passages from the Bible as well as the figures it ...view middle of the document...

” One of his last meaningful biblical allusions is in paragraph thirty-one where King states “Was not Jesus an extremist for love… Was not Amos an extremist for justice… Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian Gospel… Was not Martin Luther an extremist…” All of these allusions in paragraph thirty-one were followed by quotes from all of the alluded characters. Overall, these allusions from the bible are able to boost King’s character by displaying his overall practical knowledge. They create a sort of peacefulness within his letter and show King’s deep understanding of religious values and religious texts. This allows him to create a closer identity with the clergymen by emphasizing how religiously educated he is.
Although few, King also makes patriotic and political allusions as well. In paragraph twenty-one, King alludes to the justified rebellion of the Boston Tea Party when he writes “In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.” He then creates another series of this type of allusion in paragraph thirty-one when he says “And Abraham Lincoln… And Thomas Jefferson…” These few allusions don’t show very much, but they exemplify his understanding of American history and allow him to further connect with the American population. These allusions also exemplify the American standard of pushing the limit and going against the grain. The Boston Tea Party, went against the grain by defying order. Jefferson went against the grain, and pushed for freedom in a situation that was out of his favor. Lincoln went against the grain by granting freedom to the slaves, something that the United States had thought it would never see. These make King appear to be much more American than he was before as he has struck a chord with identifying the values Americans hold very near and dear.
Besides allusion, King was able to appeal to ethos by employing a number of other rhetorical techniques throughout his letter. For example, in King’s introduction he says “My Dear Fellow Clergymen..” what he does is establish an identity for himself. By saying “Fellow Clergymen…” King states that he too is a clergyman thus developing his character beyond just being a man well rounded in religion. He moves further into this by saying in paragraph two “I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.” By stating his association with this national religious organization, he asserts that he is a very pious man and that he too has been blessed with authority from God. This is essential to his character in regards to the clergymen as they too receive authority from God, thus creating a sense of equality. By creating this identity king affectively appeals to ethos and creates a stronger moral character with his audience. Furthermore, this also gives King the ability to refute being an outsider....

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