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An Analysis Of Effectiveness

2835 words - 12 pages

An Analysis of Effectiveness

     Martin Luther King Jr. and Toni Morrison are two of the many great writers of the late twentieth century. Their styles follow rhetorical guidelines to create persuasive arguments and clear writing. To show how they accomplish this I will be comparing the rhetorical style used by King in 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail,'; with that of Morrison in 'Friday on the Potomac.'; Each of these works result from strong opinions surrounding the issue of racial equality in the United States, and each appeals to the desire of achieving that equality. In order to address a sensitive topic such as racism and achieve the desired results, the authors had to implement ...view middle of the document...

's letter which embodies all of the characteristics outlined by Aristotle. The most clearly presented element in King's article is the use of ethos. King establishes himself as a credible and learned man early in the letter so that the reader has an immediate connection with him, and then he carries the thought throughout the letter's entirety. Within the first paragraph he uses this tactic when he writes, 'If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence during the day…'; (Corbett 302). This statement effectively creates an image of Martin Luther King sitting in a position of power rather than in the stereotypical labor job all too commonly associated with a black man. By doing so it immediately breaks down possible underlying stereotypes that would affect the reader's ability to ration in an unbiased manner. His response also creates a connection with the clergymen by presenting a scenario with which they can familiarize themselves.
     King employs another method that to establish his credibility by comparing himself to notable figures who were involved in struggles resembling his own. In doing so he uses a different strategy of conveying a vast amount of knowledge concerning the scriptures, to which the clergymen are most closely tied. For example he compares himself to the Biblical figures of the prophets and of the Apostle Paul when he says 'Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their 'thus saith the Lord'…and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ…so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town'; (Corbett 302). He also employs this method when responding to the clergymen's accusations calling him an extremist. In rebuttal to the accusation, he states that Jesus was an extremist as was Amos, Paul, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Abe Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. All of these characters are notable and considered heroes in one way or another. Comparing himself to them causes the argument of the clergymen to lose its strength and further establishes the importance of his goal.
     In keeping with Aristotle's technique of forming a good argument, King also excels in the act of goodwill, in which you demonstrate 'that you have the audience's best interests at heart'; (Smith 81). King does so by acknowledging that the clergymen 'are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth'; (King 302). This strategy prevents them from growing defensive and dismissing everything he says. He also refers to them later in the letter as 'friends.';
     By establishing his credibility with the audience, MLK successfully creates a noble character for himself with attributes that are commendable. The most apparent characteristic is that of his Christian beliefs which are conveyed strongly in his writing....

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