According to Aristotle, a speaker's capacity to persuade the audience is measured by how successfully they persuade them and how well they appeal to the audience. He went on to investigate three mechanisms that are ubiquitous in the process of presenting an argument, which he characterized as the rhetorical triangle, which includes logos, ethos, and pathos (Lutzke and Henggeler). Martin Luther King Jr. responds to nine criticisms that landed him in jail in Birmingham during a period of extreme racial segregation and tyranny in the city. The activist’s engagement of the readers through the use of appeals to emotion, reason, and character all work to convince the reader that the responses made are defensible and that there was a need for the observation of civil rights in Birmingham.

The general impression from the paper, therefore, is that King tries to defend the assertions raised against him that landed him in prison. The letter is written in a confined prison in Alabama when the criticism was so violent at the time that some locals called it Bombingham (King 4). The result was that King’s involvement in an anti-segregation march led to his arrest because he was accused of getting involved in the demonstrations despite not having a marching permit. The arrest was not unique because there were many such similar incidences as the segregating laws and the policies that were in place at the time were part of the Jim Crow system. It is based on the background that the author composes a response letter against the nine accusations that led to his arrest with specific responses being directed at the leadership of the white church (Jacobus 3).

One of the primary ways that author convinces the religious leaders to consider their response is through the use of the appeal to reason. Also referred to as the concept of logos, the use of reason to explain an issue ensures that the texts of the argument is revealed with the reader grasping how the author presented the idea (I.S.U. Writing Center). It ensures that one focuses on the message that is delivered by the speech or written statement. One way of creating the impression of reason is through the use of statistics in describing the issue at stake. For example, the author states, “It has taken Christianity almost 2000 years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth” (King 4). The impression created is that it has taken humanity a long time to realize the equality of rights and it is unfortunate that the political leaders and religious influential to make statements that are discriminatory. The activist wrote this in response to a statement that appeared to be sarcastic and intimidating Christian on how badly they wanted to be accorded equal rights treatment (King 3). The use logical appeal is successful in the letter because it brings out clarity in the argument as it is clarified through statistics how long humans have come and they should not be treated in an uncivilized manner.

The other relevant rhetorical appeal in King’s letter is the use of ethos, which stands for character in the Greek society. It is founded on the principle that the construction of an argument is motivated by the need to focus the attention of the reader on the trustworthiness of the debate or issues in question. There are two ways in which Kind utilizes this approach with the most apparent one being the appeal to character. The appeal to character is principled on the foundation of establishing authority by making reference to respected people who have had their opinion of the subject. King states that “Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies” (2). The author convinces the reader by reminding them that the statements have even been approved by renowned authors, experts or thinkers and in the process there is fairness in opinion. The use of ethos also takes the form of the appeal to credibility as described in the statement “For years now I have heard the word wait (King 3).” It implies that there is a connection because he has had to wait before making the conclusion that there is a need for change in the social environment.

It is also worth highlighting that in making the religious leaders realize their mistake, King considers the use of emotions to convince the reader. The use of sympathetic imagination is a central foundation for many successful debaters and speakers because it involving affirming a claim by invoking someone’s feelings, values, and beliefs (I.S.U. Writing Center 1). It is thus intended to make the reader feel sympathetic for the speaker while he expresses the ordeal they have undergone in justifying the statement. In the letter, there are many instances in which the expression of this concept becomes actual as King sought to convince the reader to reason based on the sufferings that were apparent in Birmingham. For example, King asserts that “One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, have been so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodyness" that they have adjusted to segregation” (4). The impression that is intended is that the author creates a somber mood for the reader and ensures that they can relate to why there is a need for change from the oppressive state to a more accommodative society. It thus means that King successful manages to convince the reader to think that the subject of oppression is rampant as he explains why the nine criticisms he is accused of are not valid.

In summary, it is worth highlighting that the writing of the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is founded on the appeal to emotion, reason, and character that enable the author to express a response to political and religious injustices. The use of appeal to character is based on the principle of ensuring the argument is credible by making reference to established authorities such as Socrates. The appeal to reason is from the use of statistics as King expresses process in the construction of the argument based on statistical evidence. The last feature that enables the reader to relate the author’s experience is the element of pathos, with the appeal ensuring that through sympathetic imagination, the argument is brought out vividly. Overall, therefore, the writing by Martin Luther King Jr. titled “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is successful in engaging the reader in making them feel that it was not justified to racial segregate the author and accuse him of unjustified claims.

Works Cited

I.S.U. Writing Center. “Ethos, Pathos and Logos.” Student Success Center (2013): n. pag. Web.

Jacobus, Lee A. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. 10th ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016. Print.

King, Jy Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Letter from Birmingham Jail (1963): n. pag. Web.

Lutzke, Jaclyn, and Mary F. Henggeler. “The Rhetorical Triangle: Understanding and Using Logos, Ethos, and Pathos.” University Writing Center (2009): n. pag. Web.

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