In the Declaration of Independence and the excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail...
How do the authors use similar writing styles to persuade their audience of the argument they are trying to make?
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One of the most striking elements of the writing styles of both pieces is how the writers elevate a political struggle into a moral one. From the realm of the subjective experience, both thinkers link their beliefs into a moral and universal one. This helps to create the sense that the struggle being articulates is one that all human beings can find connection and this helps to make their predicaments ones where more identity with the narrative can be forged. I think that the writing style featured in both strives to bring more voices into the discourse, more identification with the specific struggle. In this light, stylistic elements help to make social or political strife something more universal, more of a moral imperative.
In both of these documents, the authors use persuasive writing to convince the readers of their points of view. The thesis of The Declaration of Independence is stated right at the beginning:
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation
The colonists believe that they have been treated with such disdain and so unfairly that they must declare their independence. The document proceeds to list the reasons why they believe this to be true. The writers offer as proof many examples of unjust things King George has done that justify separation from the "mother country."
Martin Luther King Jr. is writing to a group of fellow clergymen who have criticized his methods of civil disobedience. He, too, is writing persuasively. He wants to convince them that he is justified in protesting inequality. He, too, states his thesis right at the beginning:
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in."
What follows is a list of things that have occured in the United States that he believes justify the methods of civil disobedience in which he has participated that have landed him in jail. He, too, gives specific proof to back up his beliefs that his actions are justified and that he should not be criticized for doing what is right.
There is helpful information about King's "letter" here on enotes. See the link below. There is also a link on the enotes website where you can read the full text.
Also see the link for the Declaration, with another link to the full text.
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