The Rhetorical Styles Of King And Morrison

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The Rhetorical Styles Of King And Morrison Essay, Research Paper 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 various methods of persuasion. While

each author chooses different manners with which to accomplish this, each forms clear writing with convincing arguments. They achieve this clarity due to their understanding and use of ethos, pathos, and logos as the foundations for creating these arguments. Before we can examine the writing on the basis of these three elements, we must first understand the meanings of each. They were conceptualized by Aristotle as the keys to persuading an audience. Ethos, directly translated, means worthy of belief, and deals with establishing credibility. Pathos involves putting hearers into the right frame of mind with regard to certain issues and the speakers persuasive intent (Smith 83). Logos includes the arguments that are used to make a point, and involves the basis upon which the

arguments were made. The use of these three elements in harmony with each other will produce a persuasive argument according to Aristotle. Being that he did write the book on rhetoric, I will be using the ideas of Aristotle as the blueprint for effective writing to which I will compare the works of King and Morrison. First I will examine Martin Luther King Jr. 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