In James Baldwin’s letter to his nephew, written one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Baldwin emphasizes on the issue of segregation and the challenge to not earn acceptance from a white society. Baldwin’s purpose is to explain not only to his fifteen year old nephew, but all young people of color in the future generations that the real issue at hand is to find acceptance for white culture in themselves rather than seeking acceptance into white culture. Baldwin achieves this purpose by using Aristotle’s appeal of ethos, pathos and logos.
Baldwin used ethos as he adopts a passionate tone in order to represent his view and convince his nephew, his nephews generation and the future generations to come of his purpose. Baldwin’s passionate and confident tone is seen through his constant use or repetition and restatements of phrases in order to reinforce his statement. For example Baldwin uses anaphora to convince the audience of what he had seen and experienced due to the racism that exists in America, “I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it and I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them…” By repeating “I know” multiple times, further reinforces Baldwins concrete and passionate tone. This leads and convinces his audience of his argument on acceptance.
Baldwin then uses pathos to grab the audience’s emotional attention in order to build an emotional agreement to Baldwin’s purpose of acceptance. By using constant repetition of the word “you” throughout the letter, it is as if Baldwin is speaking personally to you. For example Baldwin writes, “Know whence you came. (second person pronouns) If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.” This is important as this allows Baldwin to connect with the audience as if he is speaking directly to the reader. By connecting the audience emotionally allows Baldwin’s aim of find acceptance for white culture in themselves and also accepting themselves to resonate on a much more personal level rather than just for ethical appeal.
This then turns into logos, as he gives reason as to why accepting white culture into yourself is the main challenge, rather than being accepted by white culture. “But these men are your brothers, your lost younger brothers, and if the word “integration” means anything, this is what it means, that we with love shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it, for this is your home, my friend.” By writing this, Baldwin explains to his nephew that even though white Americans may deem you as nothing, they are still human and shall be accepted no matter the level of hate they radiate. The main point Baldwin is saying here is by accepting white culture, the true test of forgiveness and progress is shown. He gives reason to this point by stating, “…and if the word ‘integration’ means anything, this is what it means,” and proceeds to state, “that we with love shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are.” Baldwin uses the word “integration” as a form of reasoning as to why forgiveness and acceptance is important as this is what people of color at the time, were fighting for. And by accepting white culture is integration, integration into their personal lives to co exist with white culture.
In sum, Baldwin uses ethos, pathos and logos to express his purpose to his nephew and later generations of young people that acceptance should not rest in white culture but rest in your ability to accept white culture into your life. Baldwin supports his purpose by using repetition and anaphora to establish his confident and passionate tone. He further goes to emotionally tie the reader in by speaking directly to them and then supports his claims with logic, as he explains why acceptance is important.
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