Letter From Birmingham Jail Rhetorical Analysis

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is one of the greatest influential writings by Dr. Martin Luther King. He wrote this epic letter as a political prisoner on the 16th of April, 1963. Dr. King, along with many other civil rights leaders, was arrested for disregarding an injunction by a judge. 

King wrote a letter from prison in response to criticism he faced for his nonviolent campaigns and activism. The letter is directed at white supremacists and their powerless victims. This letter is one of the celebrated pieces of writing and has been regarded as a jewel in literature. 

Even after 50 years, this letter is reviewed in literature circles for its incredible value, message, and writing prowess. It is especially praised for its use of rhetorical appeals. 

King’s ability to appeal to the crowd and the overview of rhetorical appeals makes this rhetorical analysis example a class apart from others. 

“Letter From a Birmingham Jail” is one of the perfect examples of the “The pen is mightier than the sword” adage. Dr. King uses the letter to protest against unjust laws and persuade the public to stand against racial inequality. The letter is a fantastic example of its effective use of ethos, pathos, and logos. 

King uses ethos to call for unity against racism in society while simultaneously fighting for Human Rights. Similarly, he uses pathos to evoke an emotional reaction in readers and encourages them to take action. King further reinforces his argument with logos. He offers various reasons that project the real meaning of just and unjust laws. 

The letter offers logical explanations for King’s stand against white supremacy. It is written in a reflective tone to attract both the victims of exploitation and those controlling them. This letter is also an example of King’s writing prowess and passion for equality.

Summary of “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”

Martin Luther King Jr composed this letter in response to “A Call for Unity,” written by white clergymen who opposed his nonviolent protest against racial inequality. The letter explains his actions and presents arguments that support his stance. 

As a justification for his actions and goals, he uses rational, logical, emotional, and credible arguments.

Nowhere in the letter does he say that clergy members are wrong; instead, he propounds that government must provide equality for all races. Finally, he ends the letter by stating that he is just another human being wanting to develop a better and equal society. 

Ethos: King uses ethos in the introduction of the letter. He establishes a moral connection by projecting himself as a man of authority (title of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s President). The ethos appeal is made stronger by using words like ‘president’ and ‘every.’

Furthermore, he compares and specifies prominent personalities such as St. Augustine, Apostle Paul, Jesus Christ, etc., to establish a base for the letter. He consistently tries to convince his audience that he wants a revolutionary change to occur. King was a distinguished speaker who knew how to mix rhetorical devices in the best way to persuade his audience. 

Moreover, demonstrating immediately recognizable characters is an excellent example of ethos in literary works. Providing such examples allows people to draw analogies and offer a comparable point to prove his credibility.

Pathos: The letter describes the miserable condition endured by African Americans for a long to evoke sympathy from the readers. This is a perfect case of using pathos to elicit emotions in the readers’ minds. 

King contends that detaining members and treating them poorly violates human rights. His statement was justified because the protest was nonviolent, and the police violated human rights. He further maintains that the Black community has waited long for human rights, and racism is a violation of the nation’s law and the law of God. 

King argues that the Blacks must be given their ‘God-given’ rights while pinpointing that snatching away the right is against the constitution. He further states that democratic countries uphold freedom of speech for each citizen if the actions do not violate legal limits. However, he points out that it is not the situation in reality.

The letter persuades the reader to know and understand the extent of human rights violations. This was proved when the local authorities made the arrest. King used pathos extensively in the letter against white supremacy. As an appeal to his readers, he highlights the life of African Americans who lead pathetic life.

He discusses how Blacks are being stripped of their privileges and how poverty is rampant in his letter. He argues that zero privileges and mistreatment contributed to their backwardness. Due to this, the letter appeals exclusively to the emotions of Blacks. The pathos used in this letter readily assists people in understanding the concept of emotional appeal.

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Logos: King understands that captivating readers’ emotions are not enough; they also need to be provided with logical explanations. This is precisely what he does with his rational appeals. One of the eminent pieces of logic used in the letter is the argument on ‘unjust law.’ 

He further provides a list of such definitions and laws and explains how they are enforced. King unravels how discrimination is perpetuated in society with common logic and understanding without running into logical fallacies. 

In his view, the law that people are supposed to follow and the law that was used to arrest him are different, and this is simply the action of an ‘unjust law.’ He further justifies his presence in Birmingham by satirically highlighting the injustice meted out to him and his friends. King states that he and other leaders protesting non-violently were “invited” to prison.

One can find the use of antithesis, parallelism, and alliteration – rhetorical devices in this letter. Some of the lines that highlight the use of antithesis are: “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed,” 

“The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.”

Conclusion: The letter’s proper use of ethos, pathos, and logos, combined with King’s passion, make it stand out as outstanding literature and a motivational message. Furthermore, King establishes himself as a trustworthy person by utilizing ethos. He lets people know that he is expecting a change that stands out in the history of America. 

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To Kill a Mockingbird Symbolism

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” is set in the fictional town of Maycomb. It revolves around separate but interconnected events– Scout and Jem Finch’s daily lives and their father’s (Atticus Finch) imperilment as a lawyer.

Maycomb is a prosaic town sprinkled with azaleas and geraniums but is a sleeping volcano of racist tendencies. This is why when a white woman, Mayella Ewell, accused Tom Robinson, a Black man, of rape, Maycomb did not think twice about convicting him.

A fair lawyer, Atticus Finch, did not think twice about defending Robinson despite the entire town turning on him.

Meanwhile, Atty. Finch’s children, Scout and Jem, and their friends go on their counterpart of drama and thrill as they nose around the weird Boo Radley, a recluse who became a local legend.

The novel climaxes as the case of Robinson v. Ewell heads straight to a hooking twist–Ewell’s father (Bob Ewell) assaulted her. Despite this conclusion being evidence-backed, the court sentenced Robinson to death. Maycomb killed a mockingbird. Meanwhile, Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell to defend Scout and Jem. Radley escaped conviction when Sheriff Tate refused to “… shootin’ a mockingbird.”

This award-winning novel by Harper Lee stayed one of the most celebrated for decades. The epic symbolism in the novel might be one of the reasons why To Kill a Mockingbird is a common favorite for distinguished people. 

The novel used numerous symbols, but this essay discusses only four of To Kill a Mockingbird’s symbolism.

Mockingbird Symbolism

A mockingbird is an enduring symbol of innocence and beauty in the novel. The mockingbird symbol is especially for Tom Robinson and Boo Radley–both falsely accused of crimes and scandals they did not commit. The mockingbird also symbolizes the dauntless innocence of Scout, Jem, and their friends.

When Tom Robinson was falsely convicted and sentenced to death, people called it “killing a mockingbird”–symbolized the death of an innocent man and a victim of racism.

Similarly, when Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell when Ewell hurt the kids, Sheriff Tate covered up for him because convicting him would be like “killing a mockingbird.”

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Finch Symbolism

Finch, a type of small bird, is Scout, Jem, and Atticus’ last name. This fact goes hand in hand with the motif (mockingbird) of the novel. Being friends and the defendant of the mockingbirds (Robinson and Radley) subjects the Finches to the violence of racism, bullying, and power play in the town of Maycomb.

Rabid Dog Symbolism

The dog gone rabid symbolizes how a mundane, amiable creature can suddenly pose a threat, just like how Maycomb went violent towards Robinson and Atty. Finch. The usual family-friendly town turned into a lynching, angry mob due to mindless racism. 

Atticus was the one who shot the rabid dog, justifying it as the better thing to do and the safest for everyone in town. This scene symbolizes how he was willing to “shoot down” racism in his town.

Geraniums Symbolism

Mayella Ewell, despite her second-hand murder and false rape claims against Tom Robinson and the deteriorated state of her house, still managed to grow and maintain beautiful red geraniums in her flower pots.

This symbolizes Mayella’s subconscious attempt to “beautify” or “save” her unfortunate family affairs and misery. It may also come to some audiences as a message of chilling hope that life and beauty will always coexist with death and the ugly.

For decades, To Kill a Mockingbird has been one of the major icons of the fight against bullying and injustice. It inspires and will continue to inspire people to stand up for what is right and maintain integrity at all times. To Kill a Mockingbird is not only an indelible experience once read but also a novel full of moral lessons people of any age must keep treasured. 

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Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Harrison Bergeron is a short story written by an American writer named Kurt Vonnegut Jr.. It is a satirical, dystopian, science fiction story based on a society whose desperate attempt to achieve perfection resulted in misfortunes. The story was initially published in October 1961 and was republished in 1968 by the Welcome to the Monkey House Collection.

The story takes place in the year 2081. In line with the amendments to the constitution, every American citizen is entirely equal. This means that no one is weaker than the other, no one is slower, no one is uglier, faster, or wiser— all are equal. Agents and generals monitor and ensure that the law of equality is enforced. 

The story starts on one fateful day in April. A then fourteen-year-old Harrison Bergeron was taken away from his parents—George and Hazel. However, both of his parents were not fully aware of this tragedy. Hazel’s intelligence is average, resulting in a lack of awareness of her surroundings. People like Hazel possess such intelligence and cannot think or stretch their thinking time. On the other hand, despite having great intelligence, George could not comprehend well because the law requires people with above-average intelligence to wear a radio twenty-four hours a day. The government broadcasts a noise over these radios, which interrupts the thoughts of intelligent citizens like George. 

When Hazel and George watch the ballerinas dance on TV, Hazel cries but can’t grasp the cause of her tears. After a while, She and George praise the dancers on TV. The ballerinas were masked to hide their good looks and were handicapped to make their moves appear average. After a few moments of watching, George’s thoughts were interrupted by a noise.

 Two ballerinas also appear to get distracted, which means they possess above-average intelligence. There was a brief moment when George thought about his son, Harrison, as another noise distracted him from his thoughts. Before thinking deeper, Hazel urges him to lie down and rest his handicap bag, which weighs 47 pounds. This bag was placed and locked around George’s neck. Instead of lying down, he decided to get up and fetch some beer to help him relax a little bit. Hazel just smiled and agreed. 

The TV soon flashes a piece of news that was read by a man who has a speech impairment. Hazel praised the man for trying and said that he deserved a raise. When the man gives up trying, he passes the bulletin to a ballerina. The lady then read it in her natural, lovely voice. Still, after being aware of what she had done, she immediately apologized and continued reading it using a low-almost-growling voice so that no one would get jealous. The bulletin says that Harrison has escaped from prison. 

They flashed a picture of Harrison on the TV. He is wearing his handicapped that were made to suppress his strength, good looks, and intelligence. There was a rumbling noise on the TV. What followed was a video of Harrison removing his handicapped and claiming that he is the emperor and the greatest ruler in history and soon took off his handicapped to reveal his good looks. He ordered everyone to obey his commands, and he would make them royalty. Harrison then looked for a potential wife, saying he would make her the queen of his kingdom. A ballerina stepped up, removed her handicapped, and revealed her goddess-like beauty. 

Harrison ordered two musicians to play a song, and he will make them royalties. They danced to the music, and as if defying gravity, they floated 30 meters up in the air where they kissed. Diana Moon Glampers, the head handicapped general, came to the studio with a shotgun and shot both Harrison and the ballerina. She also warned both of the musicians to wear their handicapped or she’ll shoot them too. The TV screen turned black, and afterwards, George came with his beer and asked Hazel why she was crying. Hazel, who couldn’t remember what happened, said she watched something sad. Unaware of all these happenings, George advised Hazel to avoid remembering anything painful. Up to the end, both are unaware of what happened to their son, Harrison. 

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut is a tragic short story that bravely talks about different issues that we experience up to this moment. As they say, one cannot achieve perfection without flaws. This short story reminded us that overdoing something might make us forget the purpose of doing it all. Perfectionism is a disease that kills the hope for equality. Knowing and drawing clear boundaries between right and wrong should be the top priority to achieve equality.

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In conclusion, Harrison is an excellent example of someone who has been silenced and suppressed but bravely stood up, showing his defiance and hunger for power. Equality in this story was taken into literal form. In reality, equality pertains to the rights and freedom of everyone, not to how we look or think because we are all made different from each other. 

This story has raised awareness not only among many citizens but also among the leaders. Like Harrison, many of us are breaking free from society’s constraints of social norms. In the end, the story depicts how equally unequal their community is. 

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The Tragedy of Macbeth and the Importance of “Sleeping on It”

Is blindly and impatiently chasing something that was eventually lost sound familiar?

Shakespeare’s Macbeth certainly thinks so.

After several eras, the story “Macbeth” and its moral lessons remain relevant to the modern age. It is one of the major topics for critical, analytical, and literary essays for college students globally. “Macbeth” may be the shortest tragedy Shakespeare has written; still, it is not scarce on heavy themes, symbolism, wisdom, and drama. 

Macbeth’s story starts when three witches prophesied his dual title gain after his victorious battles alongside his friend and co-general, Banquo. Shakespeare was vague on why the witches deemed it necessary to prophesy Macbeth. However, this literary essay will clarify what Macbeth chose to do with this prophecy.

The play consisted of 5 acts. Heavy fantasy, medieval settings, and human emotions filled every scene. Let us tackle each.

In Act 1, Macbeth’s ego evolves when the witches’ first prophecy about him comes true, enhanced by the fact that he is a victor of multiple battles. This scene is where it all goes wrong. He had two choices: Be grateful and patient for the “King of Scotland” prophecy to happen naturally, or be greedy and rush the process. Mixing with his wife’s hunger for power, Macbeth chooses the latter.

Act 2 gives Macbeth the option to take the other road. However, his greed increases and Lady Macbeth nourishes this greed for personal gain. After killing his beloved King Duncan to accelerate his kingship, Macbeth sinks into tormenting guilt and self-loath.

In Act 3, Macbeth indeed becomes King of Scotland. Instead of being a good King, his rampant greed and remorse for killing his King made him a tyrant. Further, Macbeth’s paranoia about Banquo’s children overthrowing him compels him to murder another friend and his children. Here, Macbeth loses his chances of retribution, for Banquo’s son, Fleance, survives.

In Act 4, King Macbeth tries to soothe himself by seeking more prophecy from the witches. The three witches–may be sensing Macbeth’s dark intentions and brokenness–indulge him with vague predictions such as no man born of a woman can harm him.

This insatiable greed and blind chase for power denied him the signs of an upcoming rebellion against him by Macduff and King Duncan’s surviving son, Malcolm.

In the last Act,  Macbeth learns that Lady Macbeth committed suicide due to self-inflicted suffering. It is debatable that he could have chosen to surrender to the incoming rebellion led by Macduff and Malcolm. Instead, his greed and pride override his grief.

King Macbeth gloats over his enemies, knowing that the witches prophesied that anyone born of a woman could not harm him. Because of his greed and desperation for comfort from his grief, Macbeth fails to protect himself from Macduff, who was technically not born of a woman but was pulled out from his mother’s womb instead (caesarian).

Realizing his mistake of haste trapped him, Macbeth surrenders to Macduff, who then beheads him as a symbol of the people’s triumph over King Macbeth’s tyranny. 

Malcolm becomes King of Scotland to serve as a velveteen sheet over Macbeth’s betrayal of his father, the late King Duncan, and the people of Scotland during his reign of terror.

The story of Macbeth delivered not only a thrilling drama but also hinted at noteworthy lessons for people of any age and era.

First, “Macbeth” teaches us that “sleeping on it” is worth every second. When Macbeth received the glittering prophecy of his kingship, he let his excitement and pride run over his chances to take the news calmly. When Lady Macbeth suggested they kill King Duncan, Macbeth could have let the night slip away in peace and talked about the situation when their shock and greed subsided after a good sleep.

Second, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth could have avoided their tragedies if they had only taken their prophecy in the same way Banquo took his. Banquo accepts it with patience and humility, both of which Macbeth and his wife seemingly do not possess. Banquo could have killed Macbeth and his family to claim the throne for his children, but his morals prevented it. Macbeth sabotages his successful fate with his oversized ego and impatience.

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Lastly, this story teaches us to be careful about whom we listen to. Macbeth’s first mistake was listening to the three witches and taking their word at face value, knowing they could have been toying with him. Another one is him listening to all of Lady Macbeth’s wicked persuasion and the torture of his masculinity, constantly challenging him to “man up.”

In real life, we should always be mindful of whom we take advice from, even from a trusted friend or lover.

Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is not as celebrated as his “Romeo and Juliet” or “Hamlet.” Still, its theme, plot, and character design give it an edge in the literary world. If anyone is at a point in life where they think they will never get there, Macbeth shows examples of why one should always “sleep on it.”

Pages 2
Words 834
Academic Essay
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