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Changing The World Through The Bars Of Prejudice

1073 words - 4 pages

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his ?Letter from Birmingham Jail?, where his use of rhetorical devices such as hypophora, ad hominum, and allusions revolutionized the common thoughts and attitudes that people had towards African-Americans in the mid-1900?s. King?s rhetorical devices displayed much pathos, ethos and logos which effectively helped King strengthen and support his ideas by appealing to many different audiences including eight white clergymen, and secondary, the people of Birmingham. King begins his letter with, ?My Dear Fellow Clergymen?, which reflects his attempt to address his audience with respect. King, also being a clergyman, is able to relate to his immediate audience within the basis of religion and use it as a common ground when presenting his arguments.One of the rhetorical devices that King uses in his arguments is hypophora, defined as raising a question then answering the question in the paragraph to follow. This is used to provide additional background information for his letter as well as his explanation for the use of direct action. King asks, ?Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn?t negotiation a better path?? (184). By beginning his argument with these questions, King immediately puts his ideas and thoughts into his audiences mind and forces them to ask themselves what they truly think is the right answer. After asking these questions, King replies with his answer, ?Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue? (184). In answering his own question, King gives his reasoning for his actions, and gives evidence to his audience that the reason they are not acting is to preemptively stop tension between the whites and African-Americans. The strength of this rhetorical device is that it provides two different messages; first, when King writes the questions in the beginning of his letter, he is directly asking his immediate audience and focuses their mindset on what they have experienced to be right. Secondly, by answering his own question, he is able to show his audience what is wrong with what they are thinking about and why matters must change.Another effective rhetorical device that King uses is ad hominum, taking other members of authority and making an example of them which allows his immediate audience to see the unjust intentions that the people who oppose King have. King says, ?In this sense [the police] have conducted themselves rather ?nonviolently? in public . . . Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice? (196). By using factual events, he is able to strengthen his argument by showing the clergymen the irrational deeds that are being performed out on the streets of Birmingham. The ad...

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