Thoughts are material and shaped in texts. A text has a message. The task of a writer is to put his ideas into words. The power of words is to persuade. According to Aristotle, there are three kinds of persuasion: “The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself” (Aristotle 8). A speech never separates from a writer. His emotions inspire words; his attitude makes people care; and his decisions invoke actions.
Among the three works, which include “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jonathan Swift’s satire “A Modern Decision” and Carrie Chapman Catt’s speech “Address to the United States Congress”, the letter by Martin Luther King is the example of the argumentative essay. The letter raises a problem of suppression of the African American people. King metaphorically depicts sufferings and disappointments of the Afro-Americans, who were the “victims of a broken promise” (King), lived in the atmosphere of humiliation and agony for centuries.
The text is presented as the direct speech in the form of the monologue. The letter is written from the author’s point of view, but it is objective, because of the usage of constructions: “our hopes…”, “we felt…”, “we were…” (King) in contrast to Swift’s phrases: “I propose..”, “I have always found..” (Swift). The composition consists of the parts: the beginning (the greeting and the introduction), the plot (the subject matter is discussed), the culmination, the denouement and the concluding part. These are the elements of the style that make the speech persuasive. The following details are taken into consideration:
- The general character of sentences: the sentences in the letter are long, complex with adjectives that make the speech vivid: “On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward” (King). The assays of Jonathan Swift and Carrie Chapman Catt differ on the level of expressing thoughts. Moreover, the sentences are simple.
- The wide usage of questions, which the writer asks and gives answers to. This is what points out the main ideas and compels an audience to think the problem over. The questions of the personal character: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?” (King). A human heart sinks when pain is shared, and pain makes the audience care for the problem.
- The naming of emotions and describing them is the way for a writer to stir emotions of the audience. The audience has a personal appeal to the author, who defenses or denies a problematical issue with the words from his mind and heart.
- Using the authoritative names for persuasion, for example, in the speech King enlists Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, St. Thomas Aquinas, Socrates and others. It helps to gain trust to the words and to the writer.
- King’s occasionalisms make the assay original, the one that the audience pays attention to. These are the words: “nobodiness” and “do-nothingism”.
The satire “A Modern Proposal” is based on Swift’s calculation in the argumentation. He mocks people, who behave heartlessly, and shows them the numbers of lives destroyed with such attitudes. Catt’s assay is presented with a drastic thesis: “Woman suffrage is inevitable”. This sentence is the very first one and it pulls away with the aggressive position. The above-enumerated items correspond to the following argumentative assay “The Suicide of Feelings” that we adapt to the King’s style. It is deductive and defensive. The speech is indented for students, who have to make a decision whether to go or not to the funeral of a man, who has committed suicide. They despise him and do not talk about him. They want to forget all about him. He is said to be a bad example. The best friend of a dead man asks other students for the understanding and forgiveness. She writes a personal letter and sends it to all who has known him.
The Suicide of Feelings
Hear me, my fellow students!
We suffer the great loss. We filled our hearts with fear and anger. Anger will pass and fear will go. One morning you will wake up in your beds and think about him. You will miss him. You will get angry with yourself for not telling a bitter “goodbye” to your friend.
What do you know about the choice he has made? You do not understand him and want everyone stop thinking about him.
How can you judge him and despise? You think you are stronger than he was and you can deal with everything in your lives. You say that he must vanish. Here is your mistake. I can promise you that there will be moments for tears to fall and your heart to cry. There will be moments to give in and chances to stand up. And in that few seconds of pathetic misery, you will understand how hard it is, when no one cares about you and there is not a person in the whole world to understand you. I ask you now to understand him. You were not there for him when he failed and who are you to think of him so low?
Suicide is a moral problem. I you cannot say that it is right or wrong. You have come too far. You do not speak to members of his family. You do not want him to be buried. He is already deleted from your lives. Do not cross him out of your memories.
His wife passed away. Her illness took her and the entire world from him. He closed his doors for light, for life and us. And we insensibly left him there, in his ordeal and total loneliness. A gravestone above his soul was the body filled with dead dreams. Now we have to close his coffin…
In the history of humankind there were too many pages written with blood. No one knows when the first suicide was committed. No one really knows how to stop it. My friends, we have to deal with it. His death is a part of our lives.
During the Middle Ages suicides were the plague of the church. An attempt to make away with oneself was punished. In case one fails and stays alive, priests have killed him. His family was considered to be the social outcast. And now, my friends, you are not better than they were. Be superior! Try to understand our friend.
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You want to leave him even now. His soul will not wash with your tears and he will disappear in your memory. You call him weak, but is it really so? How many people have given their hearts to death while life was still holding them? How dare you say that he was feeble? Can you call weak Edwin Armstrong, James Robert Baker, Mary Kay Bergman, Joseph Brooks, Kurt Cobain, Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London or Virginia Woolf? No, you cannot. These people are known by everyone, their lives inspire and their deaths make you mournful. Be mournful for your friend. Do not approve his deed; do not feel sorry for him, because it is too late for that. Do not judge and do not turn your back as you did before.
It is not a moot point I argue. This is a question of morals. You cannot choose your sides now. There are no sides. What you are doing now is a step back. The pain I see in you is almost tangible just like the aversion to him. I beg you to be prudent, not biased. Just listen to your hearts, send away the pain and welcome mercy. Be with him now. I ask you to reconsider your point of views.
His funeral is a place for us, who shared life with him, to forgive his soul. Our hearts can never let this happen again. In our thoughts we must let him go.
You tear to pieces photos with him and throw out his presents. You consider him to be a bad example, a man not worthy of the society. Stop it!
You forget that it is the society that influences everyone. The sorrow makes a person a supple and flexible material. People around give that material a shape. In this case life, circumstances and destiny carved a desperate person. Did he have another choice? Did he have any other opportunity? I do believe, that all people are good and none is born with a dark soul, so where were your souls when his depleted? You did nothing to prevent this. You did nothing to help him. You do nothing now, you just go away. This wound will never heal, there is no cure. In some half-forgotten nooks of your souls, you will hear the echo, the whispers of your consciousness. Slowly the painful memories of him will fade, but in that silence, the fear of this loss will make blood run cold. You cannot escape away from the pain, nor could he. Maybe, you dare not come to the cemetery, the prison of death, for fear of getting into the cells, kept vacant for you?
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Do not pretend you never knew him. He was dear to our hearts, while his was broken. He had his way of living and he has chosen death. We have the feeling of what his life could be; only it does not matter now. The important thing is that you came to his funeral and pay your respect and honor. Socrates once said: “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways – I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows” (Plato).
See you on the funeral!