Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience And Martin Luther King's Letter From Birmingham Jail

816 words - 3 pages

Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail

Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, in “Civil Disobedience” and “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” respectively, both conjure a definitive argument on the rights of insubordination during specified epochs of societal injustice. Thoreau, in his enduring contemplation of life and its purpose, insightfully analyzes the conflicting relationship between the government and the people it governs. He considerately evokes the notion that the majority of people are restrained by the government and society from making decisions with consideration of their conscience and that people need to overcome the reign of the government to realize their own ethics and morals. King, in accordance, eloquently and passionately contends the injustice presented in the unfair treatment of and the discriminatory attitude towards Blacks. Even though, Thoreau successfully accentuates his main concerns in his argument, his effectiveness in persuasion—appeals, conclusion, and practical application—pales in comparison to that of King’s.

     In persuasive essays, appeals represent significant, rhetorical factors that rate the effectiveness of impact. Although Thoreau applies ethos, logos, and pathos in his essay, his writing lacks able organization, which affects the presentation and efficiency of his appeals. They lose their influence amidst Thoreau’s philosophical ranting. King, on the other hand, consistently maintains an overall, patient tone that unambiguously communicates his case. He skillfully utilizes the potent expressions of ethos, logos, and pathos to clearly interpret his message and persuade his readers. Relating to several biblical allusions like Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ, he sensuously establishes credible authenticity and significance to his motives of civil disobedience against unjust laws; they assist in accentuating the justice within his “unjustified” actions. King also provokes compelling emotional tides of sympathy and compassion to overcome his readers when he provides sorrow-filled descriptions of the torments Blacks have to go through everyday. Furthermore, his usage of logic in identifying equality as a natural right of all men firmly defends his reasons on sanctioning desegregation. Leaving no loopholes behind his reasoning or ambiguity in his purpose, King competently succeeds in proficiently perpetuating his views on injustice and civil disobedience.

     In addition to appeals, each writer’s conclusion causes different reactions that relate to the effectiveness of their persuasion. While Thoreau develops a pessimistic view of society and its corrupt fabrications, King builds on a more optimistic view of the future and how...

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