Frida MendivilPresnellAP Language & Composition16 January 2018MLK Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” QuestionsKing’s tone in the opening paragraph was both reflective and calm yet sarcastic and ironic. By reading the title and the first sentence of this paragraph, one can see that he is in jail.
When King states, “If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day,” it is seen as ironic because how can he possibly have a desk and secretaries while in jail? In paragraphs 2-4, King explains how and why he is not an outsider. He describes how he has a job to do by acting as a man of God and in the proper role of a minister and he is acting as a patriot who is rightly concerned for injustice anywhere (inside the US). He moves from specific to abstract, starting with the specific details of his role in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, moving to his broader role as a minister who lives according to Scripture, and finally he emphasizes his commitment to justice in the abstract since, as he says, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.
” The effect of the paragraphs wouldn’t have been as effective if the order was reversed because he argued the cause before introducing his qualifications as a speaker. Any reference to religion has some form of appeal to pathos, so when King refers to scriptural texts and figures from the Bible, he evokes an emotional response. In this case, his audience consists of other members of the clergy, Christian and Jewish, so his familiarity with Old and New Testament figures and events attests to his knowledge and understanding of texts that are sacred to all members of that religious community which appeals to ethos. .
In their letter, the clergy have indicated that protests, including any acts of civil disobedience, can result in violence and ultimately anarchy. King takes several paragraphs to explain in a systematic, logical way the methods of a nonviolent campaign. In paragraph 6, for example, he sets out the “four basic steps”—each thoughtful and disciplined. In subsequent paragraphs, he explains the political climate of Birmingham and how he and his community have been mindful of the individuals (he names several) and events (such as the mayoral election) in that community. His detailed and cerebral explanation of philosophy and method implies that the nonviolent campaign is the antithesis of protests that act precipitously without regard for the consequences. Form follows function in this case: the orderly explanation reflects the orderly process being explained.KAfter many paragraphs of complex syntax and elaborately built arguments, King returns to a tranquil tone reinforced by simpler syntax and positive language and images. Paragraph 48 has its irony as King points out that had he not been confined in jail, the letter might not have been so long, yet the irony is gentle, as he depicts himself “alone in a narrow jail cell” where he has time to “write long letters, think long thoughts, and pray long prayers.
” In the penultimate paragraph, he offers a nod to an offense he might have given to the clergy, “begging them to forgive” him. But then he makes the main point of his entire letter—which is that he is acting out of commitment to a higher law that should govern everyone’s behavior, certainly that of the clergy. King concludes with figurative language of “dark clouds” and “deep fog” passing away as “radiant stars . . .
shine” in their place. He also ends by stressing their collegial tie, that of “brotherhood,” brothers who work together in “the cause of Peace.”