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Literature & Language
English (U.S.)
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Rhetorical Analysis of King's "Letter". Literature & Language Essay (Essay Sample)


“Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr.
Length: 6 or more paragraphs

Please write a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail, “ analyzing how the author makes an argument. What is the author trying to argue? What is his purpose in making this argument? What rhetorical strategies (pathos/emotional appeals; logos/logical appeals; ethos/ethical appeals) does he use to carry out his purpose? How successful is his use of such rhetorical strategies?

Some Helpful Tips:
Avoid inserting your own opinion about the issues in the original essay. (i.e., do not argue your own position on the use of civil disobedience as a means of protest).
Rather, you are giving your informed opinion about the author's use of rhetorical strategies. Your task is to persuade readers that the author uses particular rhetorical strategies and to what extent his use of such strategies is successful.
Define the rhetorical strategy, provide several examples of the strategy, and explain why or how
the examples demonstrate the strategy and how the strategy contributes to the writer's rhetorical
Avoid a chronological "look" at the text, where you move from paragraph to paragraph in the
original text, telling us what the author says in each; instead, analyze the author’s rhetorical
strategies (the three rhetorical appeals).
Avoid lengthy, word-for-word quotations and/or paraphrases of the original essay. Limit your use
of these. The majority of your paper should consist of your own analysis, that is, your own words.
Remember to include an analytical thesis statement about the original text.
Remember, when you use someone else's words OR ideas, you must document your source. When you quote directly OR when you paraphrase another's words, you must document your source to avoid plagiarism. Check out the following website for good examples of plagiarism:


Student Name
Submission Date
Rhetorical Analysis of King’s ‘Letter’
Author’s Argument
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the letter in 1963, describing a protest against his arrest after non-violently resisting racism. He wrote the letter to call for the society to unite against racism and use ethos to push for their rights. He triggers the readers’ emotional aspect using pathos and persuades the audience to act. Further, King has used different logical explanations to declare his stand and why he fights the white supremacy (King Jr. 177). He uses a reflective tone in his letter to reach out to the oppressed and their oppressors. Therefore, the rhetorical analysis of the letter shows the author’s literary skills and his passion for pushing for human rights and equality, which is accomplished through logos, pathos, and ethos, and eluding logical fallacies.

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