Matters of the Heart

“Civil Disobedience” and “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written by Henry David Thoreau(1849)and Martin Luther King Jr., respectively, delve into the injustices brought upon their society by the government.  Thoreau has massive disdain for “the State” since it is one that has not yet abolished slavery , while King is hopeful and optimistic in a future where people of all races can live together in harmony.  Both of these men use all three appeals to argument (logos, ethos, pathos) to strengthen their essays.  Both Thoreau and King use an equal, yet weighty, amount of logos and ethos to improve their arguments, but King has a stronger use of pathos, or emotional appeal.  In times of inequality and injustice, passion and emotion seem to be the only things that can drive people to make a change.  This realization makes King’s use of pathos have a much stronger effect on the audience than the appeals that Thoreau uses.  It is for this reason that King has the stronger argument, overall.

Martin Luther King Jr
Martin Luther King Jr., author of “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
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