The Power of a Letter
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”. Quoting Jesus Christ, this is one of the great lines delivered from the great Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter to Birmingham”. It is a great guide for people to live their lives by, killing others with kindness in the face of adversity and never stooping to their level. Dr. King lived his life this way; he was such a brilliant man and as much as he had every reason to write this letter attacking the clergy, he instead brilliantly put together a masterpiece with powerful use of pathos, ethos and logos. He creates such a polite, apologetic and friendly tone that is beautifully tangled with passive aggressive attacks and criticism. His use of pathos in his speech is what made it so powerful, the emotion and passion in every line pierces into the readers heart.
Pathos is the use of empathy and emotion and is one of the strongest writing techniques. We see his use of pathos immediately when he states this famous line, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This is such an important line to say early on because it explains and justifies everything he is doing. If there is an injustice in society, in any form, then we are responsible to resolve it, no matter how many laws must be broken or how extreme the means are to fix things. This is the whole reason why Dr. King came to Birmingham in the first place, doing whatever it takes to fix the injustices of society. “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed…for years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This "wait" has almost always meant "never." We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." This further justifies why we must take extreme measure to resolve the injustices in society. It shouldn’t be that difficult; its common sense that if something isn’t right then we must change. If there is resistance to changes that make so much sense then we must be aggressive in making sure change happens. Dr. King uses powerful imagery throughout his letter to help get his point across. His explanation of what he has seen and what the black community has gone through in segregation is an excellent example of this. “I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say wait. But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your 20 million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see the tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people.” Creating powerful images like this causes the reader to put themselves in the shoes of those going through this and feel what they are feeling in turn. There is no worst pain in the world than watching loved ones being stripped of happiness. Often hardheaded people need to just be shown what they have been doing wrong to understand, they need an emotional connection for the message to stick. Another example of pathos can be seen towards the end of his