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David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr.


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This is my first essay I've posted and I would love any feedback anyone would like to offer. I had to write a paper comparing the rhetorical strategies used in David Thoreau's "Civil Disobidience and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Thanks! (:

David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. both in similar ways use rhetorical devices to intrigue the reader about the duty of us as Americans and the rights of colored people in Thoreau's, "Civil Disobedience" and King's, "Letter from Birmingham Jail." They both in their pieces use plenty of allusions, anaphora, and rhetorical questions to hold on to the reader as they read. In Dr. King and Thoreau's pieces they address the wrongs being imposed on African Americans to their religious leaders and their peers.
One of the many rhetorical devices used in both pieces is rhetorical questions. In David Thoreau's piece he says, "Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? ..... Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to put out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?" By Thoreau continuingly asking questions, he is questioning the reader's opinion on the situation. He is leading his audience to be more lenient on his grasp of the problem. Dr. King also gives his fair share of rhetorical questions. "Will we be extremists for hate or for love?" In addition to, "Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?" Dr. King also questions the clergymen's character. In both pieces, both writers answer theses questions logically and affectively. The use of rhetorical questions is in abundance in both pieces of literature.
One of the other many strategies uses is the use of anaphora. In David Thoreau's piece anaphora isn't as at large as in Martin Luther's. He demonstrates anaphora in paragraphs, 40, 41, and also 43. He starts all three of the passages with "I." This example isn't as strong as others that could be found. But it does show that he is writing this piece to illustrate his take on the situation. It shows his feelings and concern for the state of concern. However, in Dr. King's letter, it is flooded with anaphora. One of the favorite examples is in paragraph fourteen. He keeps repeating, "when you" before each sentence. This passage demonstrates pathos to a full extent. He explains things like sadness, hatred, and uneasiness that he and his family have experienced. He relates these things to not only himself but to every other colored family in Birmingham. This example also demonstrates asyndeton as much as anaphora. In both writings anaphora is in use. Even though, one is more abundant in one than the other, it is clearly rhetorically effective.
The last rhetorical device I will mention is the use of allusions. Throughout both writings allusions are used bountifully. In Thoreau's piece he hides allusions in places that many people could probably not notice at first glance. "But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of '75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them." This passage is trying to convey to the audience that what happened then isn't any different than the struggles that are going on in the present. He wants his readers to know that if the people of '75 can stand up for their rights, why can't the people of 1854 do the same. In Dr. King's letter he also uses allusions to make known is ideas on colored citizens in Birmingham. His allusions though mostly relate to religious matters because, his readers are clergymen who find him guilty of being an outsider, not letting the government handle the problems of the people, supporting demonstrations, and having demonstrations that were unwise and untimely. A perfect example of an allusion in his piece can be found in paragraph three. "Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus an carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of the freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid." This is an amazing example because, it proves the clergymen that what they are saying is worth arguing about. It relates directly to the clergymen because, hopefully they know what they are talking about, because Dr. King definitely does. The use of allusions is used very well in both pieces to compare the happening of their generations to the ones of the past.
In David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" they both use many rhetorical strategies. They ask rhetorical questions to draw their readers into their perspective on the situation. They use anaphora to remind you of what they themselves have gone through. Lastly, they use allusions to compare the past with the present. Both also demonstrate ethos, pathos, and logos. For these reasons I find both pieces rhetorically effective.

Dec 2, 2009, 02:20pm   #
cheerchick:
David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. both in similar ways use rhetorical devices to intrigue the reader about the duty of us as Americans and the rights of colored people in Thoreau's, "Civil Disobedience" and King's, "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

This sentence gets confusing. Cut back on the little words so that the main point can stand front and center. You might rewrite it like this: David Thoreau, in "Civil Disobedience," and Martin Luther King, Jr., in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," use rhetorical devices to call the reader to action in the fight for equal rights.

cheerchick:
They both in their pieces use plenty of allusions, anaphora, and rhetorical questions to hold on to the reader as they read.

Both authors use allusions, anaphora, and rhetorical questions to engage the reader.

cheerchick:
In Dr. King and Thoreau's pieces they address the wrongs being imposed on African Americans to their religious leaders and their peers.

King's and Thoreau's pieces address the wrongs imposed African American religious leaders and their peers. (You need to make King possessive as well or it look like King and Thoreau created writing together).

Why is Thoreau just Thoreau while King gets Dr. before his name? Yes, I know that King had a doctorate degree, but to keep the comparisons more parallel, I'd omit the Dr. except at the beginning where you introduce King. I'd also add the Henry to Thoreau's name the first time--Henry David Thoreau.

cheerchick:
By Thoreau continuingly asking questions, he is questioning the reader's opinion on the situation.

He isn't questioning the reader's opinion, he is asking the reader to form one. "Continuingly" isn't a word. Try something like this instead: By Thoreau continuously asking questions, he prods the reader to form an opinion on the situation.

cheerchick:
He is leading his audience to be more lenient on his grasp of the problem.

"Lenient" is the wrong word here. Try: He is leading the audience to grasp an understanding of the problem.

Sorry! That is all I have time for right now. Let me know if this assignment is still pending.



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