Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Compare and Contrast Example

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example on Compare and Contrast

Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau (1849)

Introduction and Argument

Henry David Thoreau wrote the article while elucidating the concept of civil disobedience. He introduces the essay by denoting that “That government is best which governs least.” He believes that this is the truth; he speaks favorably about a government that does not intrude the lives of the people. The people choose the government based on their will. Thoreau notes evidence-involving slavery together with the American-Mexican war as a way of making his argument. He asserts that the government is an obstacle to the achievement of its goals.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Compare Contrast

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Compare Contrast


Thoreau is clear with the point that he does not want the abolishment of the government. He wishes that it served differently, a way that is better. His idea is that a government must be there, but in the case that the government fails to improve, people should stop supporting it. It is not ethical for someone to unquestionably accept the authority of the government. Thoreau introduces people to the need for rebellion citing that if the government produces injustice instead of justice, then pressure should be applied to it in the form of revolution. He encourages people, if necessary, to act with reason and break the law. He used his unlimited example when he was imprisoned for not paying taxes (Thoreau, 2016). He sees failure to pay taxes as withdrawing from supporting the government. He advocates for a way in which people can be self-reliant in fighting for their freedoms. He does not want people to be cheated into the corruption of money and property. The details on how he was in jail for unfavorable treatment. He does not want to quarrel anyone. He desires to honor the law. Nonetheless, he feels that the current laws are not honorable. He sees the government as moving gradually from monarchy to democracy. The significance of the people should be the end of democracy.


Thoreau uses pathos in his writing as he arouses emotions of the people to drive the point home. He intends to make the readers feel outraged. For instance, he says that soldiers are not used as people should be used. He says the government uses them as tools. This is likely to make the reader mad and hate the government. In most of his expressions, as being in prison and failing to pay the taxes, he intends to touch on the emotions of the people and drive them towards taking personal initiatives as a way of rebelling against the government. His mention of rebellion as supposed to be taken personally is intended to evoke some form of individual outrage and hence send his message to the individual people. He does not speak to the public but the individual people.


Thoreau uses ethos in his expressions. He is trying to appeal to the people making them know that everything is dependent on their actions. He is trying to make the people know that it is them and their sole duty that will change their lives. He is creating a connection between what he is saying and what he wants them to do. He is focused on creating an influence on the people, making them understand the need to take action from what he is trying to tell them. After reading this article, the readers will not remain the same, as they will be influenced to think of doing something, either by self or as a group. His reiteration of the prison time is such as to create a strong connection between his objectives and the minds of the readers. Thoreau uses a personal experience simply to touch on the attention of the people. He is clear with the manner in which he wants everything to be understood by the people.


Thoreau also uses logos in his writing. He is trying to appeal to the logical thinking and understanding of the people. He is trying to reason with the readers. He is trying to let them know that his motivations are clear. He does not hate the government but is ready to turn against an unjust government. He is trying to let the people come to their senses. He is expressing to the people that the truth is just in their backyard. Throughout the article, he has employed some obvious statements. He uses statements like “The standing army, the militia, jailers, constables, and posse comitatus.” (94). He also says “They do not think for them but them “can perhaps be manufactured to serve their purpose well” (94) (Thoreau, 2016).  All these, and much more, are meant to strike the logic of the reader and make him, or she thinks in a certain way. 

Letter from Birmingham Jail

Introduction and Argument

Before the 1970s, the many laws in the United States discriminated against African Americans. Some Blacks decided to take a stand, calling the group civil rights movement. This group engaged in activities like marches, boycotts, demonstrations, among others. They were often peaceful and nonviolent. The face of this movement happens to be the author of this article, Martin Luther King. Martin led many demonstrations against injustice like Jim Crow Laws. A letter from Birmingham jail is one of the famous speeches he wrote to the group.

His argument is clear. He had been jailed for leading demonstrations in Birmingham; he is writing to explain his actions and counter the argument of his critics. He reiterates on his nonviolent campaigns, expressing his disinterest in the manner in which the critics were not considerate of this. He notes the characteristic of a nonviolent campaign as “collection of the facts to see if there are injustices, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.”


Luther establishes his ethos by first saying, “My Dear Fellow Clergymen.” He puts himself in equal terms with the audience. He portrays himself as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He reiterates on the functions of the conference. He notes that he is a minister of the church. All these, he uses so that the audience can listen to him keenly.


He uses logos in every section of the letter. He expresses the extent of brutality in Birmingham. He sees the courts as unjust to the black people. He says, “there are more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in this nation.” When seen as an extremist, he navigates back and mentions some known extremists like Jesus, Thomas Jefferson, and Lincoln, all of whom fought like him (King (Jr.), 1994).


Luther uses little pathos here. He tries to make the audience see what is happening in their families. He highlights how blacks are mistreated. He makes his emotions by talking about “your mothers,” “your fathers,” among others. He expresses awful treatments of being lynched and killings. He explains the segregation using statements like “when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?” In all these, he is trying to appeal to the emotions of the audience, and so he does (King (Jr.), 1994).

Similarity and Difference

Not much difference can be seen between these two stories other than that of using different contexts, being of different authors, being of different opinions and objectives, and being of different timelines. Thoreau is trying to fight ills within the law likewise to Luther. Both authors are expressing their concerns have gone through the prison, Luther being in prison and Thoreau being an ex-prisoner. Thoreau is fighting the ills within a government, which affect all the people while Luther is fighting segregation of the law, which puts aside and mistreats black people. While expressing the concerns, Luther is in prison while Thoreau is free. The writings of King are more resounding and convincing unlike that of Thoreau. Nonetheless, both authors drive their point home.


King (Jr.), M., L. (1994). Letter from the Birmingham Jail. Harper San Francisco.

Thoreau H., D. (2016). Civil Disobedience: Xist Classics. Xist Publishing.

Look at this ethos pathos and logos example.

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