Analyzing Argument: Letter From Birmingham Jail Essays Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Martin Luther King, Letter, Rhetoric, Triangle, Ethos, Public Relations, Audience, Human

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/29

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This paper is a summary and analysis of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” that was written on April 16th in the year 1963. Martin Luther wrote the letter in the Birmingham jail, where he was confined, after organizing and taking part in the nonviolent demonstrations against segregation. The letter was written with the primary objective of defending the nonviolent resistance strategy employed by the African American to fight racism. The paper mainly analyzes Martin Luther’s use of persuasion through the Rhetorical Triangle. Eemeren (19) defines rhetoric as the art of effective use of language in either speech or writing, designed to create a persuasive or an imposing effect on the target audience. In most cases, the rhetoric is considered as lacking meaningful or sincerity content.

Rhetorical Triangle

The first aspect of the rhetorical triangle is Exigence, which explains the need for the writing (Dvorak, 21). In the letter, Martin Luther mainly writes about the injustice and racial discrimination of the African Americans in Birmingham. He claims that Birmingham is possibly the most thoroughly segregated metropolitan in the whole of the United States and thus, the need to address that issue. The need to write this letter is most probable to answer claims that Martin Luther was engaging in “unwise and untimely” activities. He also thought of writing the letter to show the significance of freedom and equal treatment of all individuals despite their race or religion.
In the rhetorical triangle, it is also important to consider the subject. The central issue being addressed in Martin Luther’s letter is the discrimination in Birmingham. He also addresses the unawareness of the clergymen about their role in fighting for equality. When considering the speaker, who is Martin Luther, the main thing that motivates him is his role as the president of the South Christian Leadership Conference. As the leader of the organization that fights for human rights, he feels obliged to fulfil his duties of ensuring every individual right is protected and not abused. In his argument, Martin Luther gives his explanation of the situation with a wise choice of words that are unbiased, which help his case be perceived as convincing. Despite his imprisonment in Birmingham, Martin Luther explains his points in a logical manner, making his argument even more convincing.
The Audience is also a significant aspect of the rhetorical triangle. In his letter, Martin Luther’s primary audiences are the clergymen who agreed that social injustice such as racial serration existed in Birmingham. However, the clergymen disagreed on Luther’s approach to fighting for human rights in the streets rather than in court. Additionally, the clergymen had referred to Martin Luther and others as outsiders who were fighting to get in. In response to this, Martin Luther states in his later that no one who already lives in the United States is an outsider.

Rhetorical Analysis

This section of the paper seeks to analyze the use of Ethos, Pathos and Logos in Martin Luther’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The ethos is a speaker’s or writer’s appeal portrayed in his or her character and ethics. In his letter, Martin Luther uses ethos in different occasions. For example, Luther uses ethos on the first paragraph explaining how concentrating on criticism from the clergymen would result in him not doing any constructive work. He goes ahead to state that even though answering the critics will be a waste of time, he will respond to their statements in patience and reasonable terms. In the second paragraph of the letter, Martin Luther also uses ethos portraying his authority as the president of the South Christian Leadership Conference, thus the credibility of the information that he wanted to give. Martin Luther’s letter uses ethos in several other paragraphs.
The pathos has also been significantly used in Martin Luther’s letter. The reason for the significant use of pathos in this letter is because the main objective of the letter is to address abuse of human rights in Birmingham, which usually appeals to the audience's emotions. Pathos is the speaker’s or writer’s appeal to the interest or emotions of the audience. In his letter, Martin Luther uses pathos in the third paragraph of his letter when he states that he is imprisoned because there is injustice in Birmingham. The letter also uses pathos in the seventh paragraph where Martin Luther states that the people were victims of a broken promise, blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of deep disappointment.

Works Cited

Bell, Lauren Cohen, and Joan L. Conners. Perspectives on Political Communication: A Case Approach. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, 2007. Print.
Dvorak, Kevin. The Rhetorical Triangle--writer, Reader, Text, and Context/purpose--in Composition-rhetoric: A History. 2006. Print.
Eemeren, F. H. Van. Strategic Maneuvering in Argumentative Discourse: Extending the Pragma-dialectical Theory of Argumentation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub., 2010. Print.

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WePapers. 2020. "Analyzing Argument: Letter From Birmingham Jail Essays Examples." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved June 12, 2021. (
"Analyzing Argument: Letter From Birmingham Jail Essays Examples," Free Essay Examples -, 29-Nov-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12-Jun-2021].
Analyzing Argument: Letter From Birmingham Jail Essays Examples. Free Essay Examples - Published Nov 29, 2020. Accessed June 12, 2021.

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