Rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King’s “Letter to Birmingham”

A rhetorical analysis is an essay that breaks a work of non-fiction into parts and then explains how the parts work together to create a certain effectwhether to persuade, entertain, or inform. In this case, you are breaking down Kings letter and evaluating his techniques of argument.
Applying the fundamentals of the rhetorical situation you have learned so far, analyze Kings strategy of argument in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Address the following:

How are the elements of a rhetorical situation (i.e. form, content, style, diction, evidence, acknowledgments, logos, pathos, ethos, etc.) at work in this letter?
Going beyond merely identifying them, how and why are his strategies relevant and significant?

who his audiences are and how he appeals to what they value and how they may feel,
who he is, what he has done (both to get into jail and in general), and how he emphasizes this in the letter to make him look credible/ethical,
and how he reasons out the argument concerning justice and law.

Compose a 3-4 page analysis of King’s use of rhetorical appeals.  
Since this is an analysis, you are expected to make a point about the piece.  This may seem tricky because it could be done in so many possible ways, but consider not only what appeals are there, but why they are significant.  How do certain textual characteristics (e.g. style, form) serve rhetorical functions?  How do certain passages use multiple appeals at once?  How does his use of appeals speak to the kairos, or moment in time, in which the composition took place?  
Here are some tips:

Do NOT simply summarize: Any references that you make to examples from the letter should serve as evidence in support of one of the main points of your analysis.
Beware of organizing paragraphs around the appeals: Remember that having three body paragraphs (one for ethos, one for pathos, and one for logos) is an arbitrary structure that isn’t necessarily logical and might end up repetitive since a single passage might be explained as all three. 
Provide analysis and not an evaluation: You are taking a complex text apart and explaining how it functions rhetorically.  You are not being asked to explain why you think it is/isn’t a good letter or if you think it was/wasn’t effective.


Craft a thesis in a thoughtful introduction, organize coherent, unified body paragraphs, conclude with a reflection on the overall significance of the topic.
Demonstrate a solid understanding of argument, based on your readings for the class thus far, especially logos, pathos, and ethos.
Use specific textual support as evidence of your claims (minimum 3 direct quotes and the quotes must not exceed three lines in length).
Any quotes or paraphrases MUST be cited according to MLA standards.
Include a Works Cited page. Be sure to include not only the textbook selections using the work in an anthology or collection format but also any additional research you might do, though research is not required in this first essay.
Format essay according to MLA standards.
This essay should be at least three full pages in length, no more then four pages – unless you really have that much more to add, then, of course, I will glad accept it and read it!

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