During his imprisonment in Birmingham, Alabama, for remonstrating the segregation laws, Martin Luther King Jr. inscribed the Letter from Birmingham Jail. He was a non-violent demonstrator and an activist who fought any form of racism during a period when African Americans were only entitled to a few privileges. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he answers to condemnations directed to him by eight clergymen. Moreover, he directs the letter to them while at the same time addressing each reader defending his actions, and convincing people to support his initiative on restoring equity. In the letter, Dr. Martin uses ethos, similes, and a respectable tone to eventually encourage every reader to stand up against discrimination.
Use of Ethos
To institute trustworthiness and exhibit high ethical standards, Martin Luther uses ethos in his introduction. In the initial paragraph, he responds to the clergymen’s arguments about the movement’s scheduling that they considered it as unwise and untimely. Also, he states that he did not have time to provide answers to their queries, but due to the high regard he holds for them, he would respond to their criticism. The clerics begin to feel extraordinary as a result of Martin Luther’s respect towards them and gain trust towards Luther since they initially believed he simply replies to men of utmost reverence.
This supports him in defending his deeds as the clerics view him as a person that commands authority, and each person who reads views him as a man who answers to reputable men. Additionally, it prepares the readers’ mindset since he is trustworthy. More credibility is established as a speaker due to the position he holds at a Christian Leadership Conference, which is extremely valuable to the clerics as they are also spiritual leaders. Through his capacity to respect the clerics, the establishment of his Christianity roles, and displaying his intents, readers are persuaded that he only desires the best for the society.
Martin Luther makes himself more relevant through the use of similes. He associates himself with Apostle Paul while trying to justify injustice as the main reason why he is in Birmingham. He compares his situation to Apostle Paul, leaving his rural community and conveying the Gospel to every corner of the Greco Roman world (King Jr 178). By utilizing a simile to liken himself and his state of affairs as that of an illustrious spiritual individual, the clerics are greatly fascinated by his deeds. They view his deeds as aiding the dispensation of parity just as Paul would convey the Christian Gospel. Martin Luther highlights the need for equality in a similar aspect, as is the desire for Christianity, which persuades the audience that discrimination is inappropriate.
He uses an additional simile to indicate that he ought to continually reply to the Macedonian appeal for assistance. Martin Luther once more refers himself to Paul to illustrate that he answers the call to assist other African Americans just as Paul does to Non-Christians that appealed for help. Through this comparison, the clerics and readers viewed his deeds are as being based on Christianity; therefore, none of his actions are considered as inappropriate. Readers start seeing how he ought to assist because it is his obligation as a Christian. Readers are made to understand the patterns of his actions by comparing him to a religious leader.
A reputable tone is expressed in the entire memo to additionally exhibit the importance of Martin Luther’s deeds. He starts the communication by referring to the clerics as “My Dear Fellow Clergymen” (King Jr 177). By preserving this courteous tone, the clerics can see the seriousness of his actions and only write in his defense. In addition, readers are aware of his capability to communicate with reverence by using measured phraseology. He also addresses the clergymen as the men with genuine deeds, which brands his concepts more substantively. Although he portrays dissimilar opinions as opposed to the clerics, he upholds a principled manner by emphasizing their unsurpassed aspects instead of disgracing them. He then states that he is hopeful of addressing their apprehensions harmoniously and sensibly. This highlights the reverential tone, which prompts the reader to comprehend that he is an individual driven to restoring equity during the period that racism was prevalent. He also uses a well-thought-of tone to connect with his audience. Through measured diction, he eventually convinces the readers that every citizen around the globe can live with peace and harmony if there is love and kindness.
Rhetoric and other features such as ethos, similes, and respectable tone are employed by Martin Luther when responding to the clerics in a reputable manner, while similarly urging all citizens to address the prejudice that exists in the south. The readers are persuaded to act as they trust Martin Luther’s credibility because he is a religious leader and portrays an outstanding character. Every key feature illustrated in the letter plays a significant role in understanding Martin Luther’s character and ambitions, as well as why his non-violent partaking against racism is important.
King Jr, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham jail.” Liberating faith: Religious voices for justice, peace, & ecological wisdom (2012): 177-187.