Solvik Devin Solvik Professor Brown College Comp 2 February 22

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Devin Solvik
Professor Brown
College Comp 2
February 22, 2010
A letter appeared in the Birmingham newspaper, in 1963, known as the
“Letter from Birmingham Jail.” A clergymen, called Martin Luther King Jr. tries to
explain his reason of action to fellow clergymen who called his actions “unwise and
untimely.” King justifies the need for non-violent direct action to eliminate
segregation. In doing so he displays commonality and emotion through his language
and way of writing. King effectively displays just and unjust laws using current
events and biblical references to let the clergymen feel empathy leading to an end of
segregation.His demonstration of ethos, logos, and pathos is an effective strategy to
try to convince the letter’s readers to be on his side.
Immediately, from the beginning of the letter King tries to show equality
between, himself and the clergymen. He addresses his audience as “fellow”
clergymen showing that he is not talking down to them, this being an example of his
ethos.He also shows his background of education telling the reader that he is the
president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, this shows that he
understands the laws of God and unjust laws. He talks about how unjust laws are
not moral and that unjust laws are degrading. He tries to explain that though he and
his audience are of different races, they are governed by the same morality, and laws
of God.
He is also respectful of the clergymen and their opinions. Instead of telling
them that they are entirely wrong for what they believe, he instead gives reason to
his current and past actions. In order for his audience to relate and understand his
reasoning he uses biblical quotations and references that relate to current events for
the clergymen to understand, and recognize the unjust laws that King and his
followers are fighting against.King tries to blur the lines betweens race and religion.
Showing similarity in religious beliefs helps the clergymen to see the
commonality between themselves and Martin Luther King Jr. King tries to erase the
idea of color from his text, instead he chooses to show the similarity between
beliefs. His style of writing would be very common to how the clergymen would
speak, for example when explaining the gospel during the homily. The main idea
behind kings writing is to relate current events to old religious stories for better
understanding of the African Americans actions. Bringing God into the picture
allows for great display of emotion, and a common interest and foundation that the
white clergymen would understand.
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Large amounts of emotion can be felt while reading King’s letter. While
interpreting the text one can realize the man is writing from jail and not just his
office or home. Clergymen read this first when being addressed. They are also told
that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” explaining that the
injustice shown towards the African Americans, blurs the lines between right and
wrong that the Bible sets as standards. King creates distinction between laws that
are just and unjust.His pathos show the emotion he has dealt with by telling the
clergymen what African Americans are experiencing behind closed doors the may
begin to truly visualize what they have gone through and why actions have been
made. He does not address right and wrong between race. He wants the clergymen
to determine if having to choose what was just and unjust, would they respond in
the same way that has already been demonstrated by African Americans and the
Logos used in Kings letter are used to explain all the questions put out by the
clergymen. He tries to give reason to the “untimely” matter of action. Although he
waited until the voting of the mayor was over he questions the clergymen asking if
they believe it was fair. A town full of mostly blacks was denied the right to vote for
their own mayor. How is this just?
The amount of disappointment King has with the church can be seen as a
very large attention grabber towards the clergymen. He feels that the church’s
responsibility for African Americans has never been a priority. He feels as if the
church is hiding behind “anethetizing security of stained-glass windows.” By calling
the clergymen out on not fulfilling their full duty to demonstrate equality in religion
can cause empathy especially when it is being addressed later in the text. King does
a great job relating to the clergymen because he, himself is also a clergymen- one of
them, and he tries to make them understand this. Explaining that he stands by the
same standards that the white clergymen follow, shows a point of view, from the
“black” side of the argument, that they can easily understand.
The reasoning and timing of action was well planned out by Martin Luther
King Jr. He explains to his audience that things needed to be done as they were in a
non-violent matter. As if giving a warning to the clergymen saying that if things are
not done soon violence will begin and many will be hurt, even youngsters. This may
cause the clergymen to think about their beliefs saying, do more people need to be
hurt and killed as Jesus did just for trying to be accepted?
King addresses how the clergymen commended the Birmingham police force,
with frustration in his tone of writing he says
Throughout the entire piece of writing King is very diplomatic, sincere,
heartfelt, and inoffensive. He does not want to seem superior to anyone instead, he
to be viewed as an equal in race and religious beliefs. He wants to eliminate
segregation. He wants the clergymen to feel empathy and does this through
language, religious views, his own personal experience, and emotions. King is very
successful in explaining his reason of action to his audience. He finishes his letter
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saying he wants to sit and talk with the clergymen as equals discussing religious
views not confronting segregation that has led to the start of all the letters. Martin
Luther King jr’sletter is very meaningful and led to the start of the Civil Rights
movement. He had accomplished a lot by demonstrating commonality and emotion
to his “fellow” clergymen.