Write Essay About Martin Luther King “Letter From Birmingham Jail”

The first paper was an EXPOSITORY paper and I gave you a breakdown of the expository patterns available to you [comparison/contrast, cause and effect, process, division and analysis]. For this third [2nd] paper, consider writing an argument. Remember, the first paper may have been an argument, and it is easy to go from expository to argument, but for this paper, be more conscious of the fact that you’re developing an argument. See the information provided below for argumentative writing.

ARGUMENT, essentially, is seen as a reason or reasons offered for or against something. Argument refers to a discussion in which there is disagreement and suggests the use of logic and a statement of facts to refute or support a position or point. Argument is one of the four forms of discourse, the others being description, narration, and exposition. You’ve been exposed, primarily, to EXPOSITION so far during the semester.

These forms of discourse give us opportunities to express our points of view, to illustrate what we believe is important for the reader to know by allowing us a “particular” approach, a strategy, so to speak. Argument is built on thesis and uses logic. The essence of the essay is argumentative, the structure or way you make your case could be by any of a number of combinations of other methods. Remember that the fourth form of discourse [exposition] contains within it the 6 major patterns of exposition [examples, definition, cause and effect, division and classification, process, and comparison/contrast]. These are all patterns of exposition.

For this essay, consider presenting a strong point of view, an opinion about one of the readings, and that you are prepared to defend that point of view logically and coherently and with ample evidence [from the readings or other secondary sources]. The structure that you use could be simple [five paragraph model essay] or a bit more complex [cause and effect structure, comparison/contrast, division/classification, process, combination of these]. In any case, use the introductory paragraph to introduce your subjectestablish a clear thesis [your point of view], and layout for the reader a “plan of development.” Then use the body of the paper to walk the reader through your argument step by step. Below are some ideas you might want to consider:

Some points on argumentation: [position should be controversial]


1. writer states problem [introduces topic, hooks reader’s interest]

2. writer states possible position to be taken [establishes a “claim,” a “thesis” statement made]

3. writer establishes support for thesis or claim [lays out “plan of development”]


4. writer commits to paper body [the argument], using topic sentences to show divisions

5. writer offers proof that position is a reasonable one to hold [evidence, supporting material]

6. writer anticipates objections to the position and refutes them [in each paragraph]

7. writer stays focused on claim, development of argument, commits to “coherence” in essay


8. writer affirms solution to problem and makes a final appeal [conclusion “concludes”]

Consider some of the recent essays we’ve looked at and decide if any of these might be useful as “models” for your own writing [design]. Consider how the writer arranged his/her ideas, how the writer developed his/her point of view in relation to the subject. Did the writer challenge a position? Did the writer include refutations of an opponent’s position? Look for evidence, items of support the writer may have used [details]. Did the writer use ETHOS, PATHOS, LOGOS? Some essays are quite personal, philosophic, emotional [ethos—ethics, morality]. But how does he “develop” his ideas? Is the essay arranged in any specific way? [logos–logic] In terms of the emotional nature of the essay, is it troubling? Inspiring? [pathos–emotion]. What is the basic problem? What do his solutions look like? Identify them specifically. Discuss them. Do you agree with the author? Disagree? Why? One person’s vision of the world is far different from another’s. Perhaps a comparison of two essays would reveal some interesting ideas about these ideas you hadn’t thought of. A simple analysis [division and analysis] might reveal weaknesses that you might point out. Locating causes or effects might also help your argument, especially if there are causes or effects the author may have not seen, anticipated. You might find an interesting process at work in the essay, the subject. Any of these would work well with argument. Consider some of the more recent essays we’ve read and some of these possible topics:


1. Carnegie establishes three specific “modes” relating to the use of excess wealth: give it to your kids, leave it for charities, or create charities during your lifetime These issues have to do with responsibility, charity, and personal satisfaction. Discuss the three modes.

2. Compare the ideas of Carnegie with those of Carl Becker. Becker argues that material wealth and virtuous behavior are two of the primary requirements for democracy. Does Carnegie agree? What is Carnegie’s solution to a better democratic society? A better “democracy”?

3. Thoreau established in 1849 some of the principles that Martin Luther King later espoused. Indeed, MLK was borrowing [directly] some of the ideas of Thoreau. What were these ideas?

4. Thoreau

5. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is an argument or refutation of the words of certain clergy in the community. So, how is King’s letter an open “refutation” of someone else’s ideas? And how does King go about refuting these ideas? His letter is a classic “point/counterpoint” argument. Describe it and show how it works [and argue whether it is effective or not].

6. Discuss King’s use of “pathos, ethos, and logos” in his argument. In what ways specifically does he employ pathos? In what way ethos? How pathos?

7. Discuss King’s four point plan for putting together a non-violent demonstration. How might these work? Is it effective? Do you agree with King? Disagree? Is there more that you would do if it were you putting together such a demonstration?

8. Does MLK follow some of the ideas that Plato espoused? In what ways is he like Plato? What do they share philosophically?

9. Compare the writings of Sigmund Freud with those of his contemporary, Carl Jung. Jung was Freud’s student, you might say, but broke from him [went in a different direction] over certain ideas related to child development and the levels of the unconscious.

10. Analyze Freud’s essay or Jung’s essay separately. What did Freud argue? What did Jung argue?

11. Compare the Communist Manifesto with Carnegie. Marx argues for fairness and the distribution of wealth; Carnegie says that competition is a natural law but that the wealthy have an obligation to help the poor by giving money to charities and using their wealth to improve social conditions.

12. Carl Becker tells us that history is written by individuals and that written history can never therefore be “absolute.” Instead, it is “relative,” more personal than one might imagine. Look closely at what he is saying here and consider this in relation to other writers. Does their personal point of view, their commitment, their perspective change the way a thing is written about? How does each author reflect his or her own personal bias?

13. Becker very carefully defines democracy as needing two things: material conditions and people of high “capacity.” Is he correct in saying this? What else is required for a democracy to flourish?

14. You may use any of the questions at the back of the essay[s]. You might also use [respond to] any of the comments for discussion section.

Remember: this second essay is very much the same as the first. I just want you to consider whether you are “arguing” a position or simply stating some fact. Argumentative writing is different from expository. It implies a position or opinion about something. That is all.

Last, consider the three part essay described above and also the “scientific” model that many science writers use: [1] establish the problem [2] discuss how we got there [3] provide solutions to the problem. This is also a very effective technique.

The essay is 3-4 pages, typed, double-spaced. If you use another’s ideas, cite those ideas!

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