Jarrod Cook

Professor Liliana Naydan

English 15, Section 15

21 September 2004

Journal Prompt #5

            King effectively incorporated pathos into his argument to help convince his readers to agree with his cause.  His techniques sway the emotions of his audience and show them the importance of his case.  He uses many religious quotations throughout the letter to appeal to the morals of society.  The use of real life examples throughout the piece show the readers the kind of trials the African Americans are being forced to endure.  King’s letter is very inclusive, in that it not only appeals to a specific group, but to almost anyone who would read it.  He uses religious argument, but he is careful in how he goes about it by including several religions.  He relates his sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus and in doing this causes Christians to immediately feel for his cause.  Even non-Christians have heard the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and this allows them to understand King’s side of the story.  Religion is only one of King’s methods of creating emotional appeal he makes use of several other tactics throughout his letter.

            King uses several examples of the ruff treatment incurred by African American’s throughout the essay.  He states that although the Birmingham police have “conducted themselves rather ‘nonviolently’ in public,” they have done so “to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice.”  King describes the on goings in the Birmingham prison and tells his audience of the violence they are forced to endure.  This causes readers to emphasize with him and his cause because they feel for the pain they are suffering.  The fourteenth paragraph is an important paragraph, in that it greatly adds to the pathos of this paper.  This paragraph grows more intense as it goes on describing several sufferings of black society.  His use of children in this paragraph help to influence society because everyone can relate to children in one way or another and feel for the pain of the Negro children. 

            King also makes use of the word “American” and examples of past political influences to reinforce his point.  It is only natural for citizens to have an emotional connection with their homeland.  He uses this connection to reinforce his argument and give reasons why the constitution backs up his point.  He includes quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln in his paper and demonstrates how they agree with his point.  This letter creates a very emotional situation and makes it difficult not to emphasize with his cause.  Pathos is a very important part of King’s argument and without it his letter would not have had nearly the effect that it did.