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Letter from Birmingham Jail, Paragraph 9-12
Transcript of Letter from Birmingham Jail, Paragraph 9-12
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Paragraph 9 Analysis
Analysis of Paragraph 10&11
Analysis Of Rhetorical Devices
Within paragraph 9, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. highlights the restraint the African American community has exercised by outlining the various decisions he has made to guarantee maximum effect. Referencing the then upcoming mayoral election, King reveals his decision to delay protest; recognizing the election would distract from the importance of the matter, he displays cautious patience. However, due to the run-off election that occurred soon after, King writes
"we decided again to postpone action...so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues". Within this quote, King displays a sense of decorum, further establishing his ethos as well as the extent of his moral character, as he regards political figures in a respectful manner. Dr.King was not extended that same courtesy.
King addresses criticism directed towards his choice of protest by restating key points within the clergyman's letter; furthermore, he concedes that "negotiation is the better path". King's concession establishes him as a man of rational thinking; he is not clouded by the disrespect of the clergymen. However, he then continues to categorize his methods of protest as acts that
foster the necessary negotiation. King optimistically writes about the possible "growth" non-violent tension can result in, envisioning a society no longer riddled with inequity and serious lack of opportunities.
King's appeal to pathos is prevalent through all his pieces, as these feelings of passion and endurance are essential to his arguments. King's diction especially reflects his emotions, as they create the necessary conditions for inspiration and change to occur. King flawlessly communicates the correct feelings of grief and disappointment, while allowing his endurance and optimism to express as well.
In paragraphs 9 through 12, King maintains a respectful tone through the use of reverential and unifying diction. He makes a point of referring to people of authority as “Mr.” (paragraphs 9 and 12). In this, King institutes a level of respect for the people he is mentioning in his response to the clergymen. He does not discuss the men in an entirely positive manner; thus, by referring to them as “Mr.” , he ensures that he is respectful when speaking about them. In addition, he utilizes the words “we” (paragraphs 9 and 12) and “us” (paragraph 12) to establish a sense of unity between him and his audience. It establishes a common ground that suggests that a change should be made collectively, rather than individually. Nevertheless, when answering to the clergymen’s criticism he transitions from using the word “we” to using the word “you” (paragraph 10) . This transition signifies when King is directly addressing the clergymen’s concerns.
Why direct action? Why sit-ins marches, and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” (paragraph 10)
“Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” (paragraph 12)
King proposed his own questions that correlate to what is mentioned in the clergymen’s letter. This shows that he took time to thoroughly read their letter and consciously developed responses for their concerns. This action may have also been an effort to stroke the clergymen’s egos. The rhetorical questions were met with a direct answer, as well. As mentioned before, the direct answers serve as unambiguous counters to the criticisms proposed.
Based on Jim Harvey's speech structures
Racial Inequality and the
necessity of social reform
To educate the clergymen as to why non-violent movements are effective and necessary against racial injustice
As King's credibility is essential to the validity of the piece, he utilizes it to serve as a counterargument to his critic's statements. King establishes his ethos as a civil rights activist earlier in the passage, citing his position as "President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference". His high statue within the Christian environment deems him a worthy opponent in the eyes of the clergymen. His allusion to Socrates, a credible philosopher, serves to add potency to his non-violent protests. Creating a parallel to the methods used by a renowned philosopher and him, he forces the clergymen to acknowledge the legitimacy of his technique.
"Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood."
"...but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals"
"....that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood."
"...tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal..."
King's appeal to logos provides a strong, irrefutable foundation upon which he builds his argument. This integration of logical statements supports King's stance, resulting in a reliable truth that allows King to communicate an emotionally charged letter with his reason and logic entact.
"The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation" (P.11)
"Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily" (P.12)
Analysis of Paragraph 12
King writes in rebuttal to the audacious accusation of "untimely action" he performed, explaining the urgency of "prodding the new administration" to ensure constructive response. King comments on the necessity of "non-violent pressure", citing the reality that without it, progress has not and will not occur.
Towards the conclusion, King alludes to renowned theologian Reinhold Niebhur, in an attempt to appeal on the common ground of Christianity. The clergymen cannot find fault within the reasoning of such a eminent figure in Christian society; therefore, King solidifies his argument by referencing their similar beliefs.
Within this concise paragraph, King simply states the purpose of these acts, in hopes that such a future exchange will ensue. Once again he responds to the clergyman's desire for negotiation, writing that he is in accord with the necessity of future negotiation. He then emphasizes his desire for such a meeting by urging for a "dialogue" rather than the current "monologue". Through King's clear willingness to rationally discuss the matter, it is implied that he is ready to take any necessary actions to receive the result he and so many other yearned for.
Martin Luther King Jr. does not hesitate when addressing the criticisms. When responding to the objections, he answers with balanced and concise paragraphs. The balanced structure of his paragraphs show his stability and credibility as a writer, thus adding to his ethos. In addition, by utilizing succinct paragraphs, he provides clear and direct responses for the clergymen. However, in contradiction to his balanced sentences, he includes a three-sentence paragraph (paragraph 11) that is significantly shorter than the others. In paragraph 11, he states the importance of using a direct-action program when making negotiations. The purpose for this contradicting short paragraph was to create emphasis in stressing his idea.
“I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.” (paragraph 10)
In this quotation, King contrasts two conflicting forms of solutions - violent and nonviolent. He states that he finds nonviolent protest more effective in promoting change and growth than violent protest. His use of antithesis serves as a justification as to why he feels that nonviolence is more beneficial.
“Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.” (paragraph 11)
In a similar fashion, King makes the statement “to live in monologue rather than dialogue”, with the the word “monologue” contradicting “dialogue”. By definition, a monologue is a prolonged talk by one single speaker. A dialogue is a conversation between two or more people. In this quotation, King says that people tragically make an effort to live in solidarity, rather than unity. His use of antithesis serves to show that King believes that people should live with and for one another, as opposed to being individual.
Thus clip is from the movie "We were Soldiers", a film depicting the camaraderie and acts of uncommon valor during the midst of a battle that resembles a suicide mission. Before deployment, Lt. Col. Hal Moore makes a speech concerning good will among the soldiers. Within the speech, he emphasizes the lack of significance of race and religion; instead, he chooses to focus on the trust necessary to successfully execute a mission of this caliber. Moore effectively removes race and any stigma it might be associated with, resulting in the soldiers focus revolving around the integrity, not appearance of the man next to them. Similarly, MLK advocated for this equality and harmony between the races, something that resonated deeply from within "Letter from Birmingham Jail".
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. successfully employs several rhetorical strategies, resulting in a piece that is highly opinionated yet successfully maintains it's logic and credibility. Throughout the selected passages, King integrates the reasoning for his actions while acknowledging the emotions that fueled him to do so. Through the balance of these two integral aspects, King increases his overall outreach effect as well as his ethos, both of which are necessary for a successful argument. Maintaining a sense of decorum and rationale throughout the selected paragraphs, King emerges as a man worthy of the fame and respect allotted to him.
Through King's persuasive writing style, he convinces his audience to consider his non-violent direct action plan, which is meant to create an equilibrium between the races. He poses questions that he himself develops an answer to, creating a better understanding within the audience. Towards the end of this section, Dr. King further strengthens his call for action by stating the historical difficulties with “privileged” groups rarely giving up their benefits voluntarily, therefore implying that the progress he and many before him seek has never come without action as well as negotiations.