“In Civil Disobedience”, Henry David Thoreau, stresses on the trueimportance of the individual and his power to alter governmentalinjustices. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
, in “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, places strongemphasis on direct action to impose reform, while promoting theequalizationof rights for all individuals. Both authors incorporate strong rhetoricalstrategies that appeal to the lectors, such as ethos and pathos. However,King’s piece exalts effectively due to the genuine modesty he portrays aquality Thoreau lacks provoking a reverse reaction than the one desired. The ability to strike an individual with emotion is the ability to detectthat debile section of the human and touch the true depths of their naturalsentiments. King utilizes emotion in a tremendous way by quoting the Bibleand mentioning Christ’s doings. He takes in consideration that thecomponents of his audience are clergymen that assumingly have a profoundstudy of the Bible and intends to persuade them with this knowledgetactically.Order now
When he incorporates passages of the Bible, he compares them toactions he has or will act upon in good faith: “Like Paul, I mustconstantlyrespond to the Macedonian call for aid”. Here King compares his predicatingof freedom with that of the Apostle Paul’s of the gospel. King later uses adifferent form of emotional appeal when he speaks of his personalencounterswith racism, quoting his five year old son with an ingenuous question:”Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”. With statementssuch as these, King places the reader in a small area of his life, statingevents he has lived and sensed, enabling the piece to penetrate furtherwithin its lectors. Thoreau possesses a very dry emotional appeal in his piece because of hislack of modesty, that almost makes his statements and remarks seemdespotic.
However, the emotional appeal, although found vaguely within his writingandsomewhat connected to ethical appeal, is existent within the piece: “Thebest thing a man can do for his culture when he is rich is to endeavor tocarry out those schemes which he entertained when he was poor. ” Thoreauhereradiates emotion while connecting morality; he is inviting the audience tobe humble and not allow the power of ambition consume and morph that simpleway of life. Later on, he supports and advances his thought with a Biblicalquotation: “Render therefore to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to Godthose things which are God’s”, appealing once again to emotion through theword of the Lord, that is universally known to be sagacious. Further alongin the piece, the writer speaks of this experience in jail with a prisoner:”I pumped my fellow-prisoner as dry as I could for fear I should never seehim again”. Pity can be sensed in this remark, but is still not completelyauthentic to appeal in its entirety to the reader. Morals, beliefs, and values are learned qualities humans possess, and serveas the catalysts of the conscience.
Humans act upon accordingly to what theconscience dictates, idealistically speaking, and the conscience acts uponthat individual’s perception of right and wrong. King combines thiseffectively and wisely inserts it in the piece, thus appealing to hisselected audience in the ethical aspect: “One who breaks the unjust lawmustdo so openly, lovingly and with a willingness to accept the penalty”. HereKing approaches his audience in a humble manner stating that one shouldholdhimself responsible for his actions, leading the audience onto sensing theconspicuous honesty in his words, provoking not only a great appeal but adesire to continue acknowledging his words. Then we have Thoreau with his wide variety of ethics and morals, thatalthough are appealing to a certain extent, contain a slightly pretentiousfeel, radiating ambiguity in his approach to appeal. “A man has noteverything to do, but something; and because he cannot do everything, it isnot necessary that he should do something wrong”. The meaning of thisstatement is in itself positive, but his aggravated attitude is lucid.
Ifhewould appear before his audience with a distinct attitude of positivism andhumbleness; with actual solutions to the argued problem rather thancomplaining about the issue, his appeal would stand firmer. In conclusion, both pieces emphasize on the rights and duties of theindividual when he encounters unjust laws and actions. King’s honesty,authenticity and overall modesty appeals to the lectors because, they areable to sense his clear eagerness and preoccupation to resolve the issue ina moderate manner. Thoreau lacks this much needed modesty to gain thesympathy of his .