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Persuasive Techniques

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Out of the numerous techniques that are available for writers, persuasive and literary techniques are most commonly used in writings like Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and Barack Obama’s election night victory speech. “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” has many examples of each type of persuasive techniques, and it includes literary techniques like allusions and figurative language. When King states that Birmingham is one of the most thoroughly segregated cities in the United States, he is using the persuasive technique of logos. This is an example of logos because King uses facts and statistics to help support his argument. As King is justifying why he is in Birmingham, he supports his claim by stating that he is the president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and provides information about what his conference does to help the southern communities. This is considered using the persuasive technique of ethos because King uses his position as president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference to back up his claim as to why he is in Birmingham.

King uses pathos, the last persuasive technique, when he is complaining to the clergymen that colored people do not receive the God given rights, unlike white people. This is an example of pathos because King uses emotional language and numerous sensory details while defending his claim. King alludes to many historic people including the prophets of the eighth century B.C. He relates his occupation of carrying the gospel of freedom beyond his hometown with the prophets who carry the gospel of Jesus far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns. King also alludes to the Apostle Paul by comparing himself to Paul as having the same idea of responding to a call for aid. King also uses many similes and metaphors in his letter including when he is comparing the early church to a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. In Barack Obama’s election night victory speech, Obama also uses persuasive techniques to convince his audience to support his claims, and he also uses literary techniques to provide greater detail to his arguments.

When Obama is trying to convince the audience that the task of perfecting our union moves forward, he is using the persuasive technique of pathos. This is an example of pathos because Obama is using emotional and motivational appeals to back up his claim. As King is informing us that our economy is recovering, he supports his claim by telling us that a decade of war and a long campaign is over. This is using the persuasuve technique of logos, because Obama uses facts and logic to help support his argument. The literary techniques that Obama mostly used in his speech were figurative language. For example, he states that America is like a hard working machine that keeps on working, which is a simile. He also compares the people of America to gears and parts of a machine when he says, “The hardworking people of America work like the gears and parts of a machine.” The effect of the figurative language lets the audience picture more clearly what Obama is describing, whether it is an object or a person. As one is analyzing the use of persuasive and literary techniques in Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and Obama’s election night victory speech, one can see the influential difference that it makes in both pieces of writing.

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