Letter from Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King One of the

One of the best texts for identifying rhetorical
principles, strategies, and terms!
“Public Statement by
Eight Alabama
clergymen” published
in the Post Herald.
The clergy make 4
specific accusations:
•King is an outsider.
•He should negotiate for
change rather than
•Their actions are
•There is NO justification
for breaking the law.
•Paragraph 1 is an introduction
•Paragraphs 2-3 King explains why he is NOT an outsider.
•Paragraphs 5-11 King explains organization has TRIED to negotiate, and will
•Paragraphs 12-14 King refutes the accusation that his organization’s actions
are “untimely”.
•Paragraphs 15-22 King presents an argument justifying civil disobedience.
King deftly presents his agreement with the clergymen, but redefines the terms
for them.
Respectful, courteous
*Remember: Dr. King was not then the icon that he is
Rhetorical Strategies
 In paragraph 25:
 Series of rhetorical
questions crafted with a
parallel structure and
Alludes to Socrates and
biblical events.
Use of analogy
Repeats the word
precipitate to emphasize
cause and effect.
Final sentence is antithesis
 In paragraph 31
 Use of irony with
 Repeats the word extremist
so many times it becomes
as ordinary as he claims.
 The final sentence is an
understatement, which
emphasizes the irony.
 Paragraph 44: structure
of a complex sentence
beginning with an “if”
clause and the phrase “I
have no…”
 The conjunction “Before”
in two sentences.
 Repetition is often used
in sermons to encourage
audience members to
remember and, in some
communities, to
SOAP: Let’s clarify!
 Subject: general
topic/main idea.
 Occasion: Time, place,
historical context,
circumstances that give
rise to the text
 Audience: Individual(s) or
group(s) to who the text is
supposed to appeal
 Purpose: Writer’s or
speaker’s intended reason
for writing or delivering
the text, what the speaker
hopes to achieve
 Now let’s make it SOAPS
 Speaker: Identity of the
voice of the text, including
relevant characteristics
such as age, social class,
education, reputation
 Or SOAPSTone:
 Include the attitude of the
speaker toward his or her