Pathos In Letter To Birmingham Jail

930 Words4 Pages
Civil disobedience is the refusal to comply with certain laws or a system of laws. In the documents written by Henry Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr they clearly state their terms of just and unjust laws through a majority of appeals to emphasize the efficiency of their main idea on what civil disobedience is. Thoreau highlights his advocacy on civil disobedience in sufficient literal detail while King’s letter to the clergymen uses more examples of ethos and pathos to illuminate his main idea ultimately making his appeal more effective in my opinion. Henry Thoreau believed that the government was being unjust and he proposed the means of justice by using a more dry ethical and emotional appeal to prevail his main idea. In Civil Disobedience,…show more content…
King knows that the clergymen have profound sense of the Bible’s literature and attempts to use his biblical allusions to reason with them better. By incorporation the Bible into his letter, King compares them to actions he has upon good faith. He states, “Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid”. In this statement, King is comparing his prediction of freedom with Apostle Paul’s gospel. Another formidable source of pathos is King’s experience of true immoral behavior. He says, “But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters;... when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean” (King 15)? With this statement, King uses a technique in which the clergymen would think of their own family in a situation like this By placing them in a small area of his life, King wanted the clergymen to have a sense of guilt. King also used a strong ethical appeal to emphasize his statement which historical evidence. He states: “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal” (King 23). King compares the clergymen to Hitler, and their actions are legal but entirely immoral. When compared to a dictator who has killed thousands of innocent people, it defines that the person being compared has done just as bad or has a similar thought process. This way of thinking creates cognitive dissonance in the clergymen because they may not be ruthless people, but King displays to them the signs that they can be, if the keep at the unjust path.
Open Document