Making Your Pathos Essay Work for You

The ancient Hellenistic modes of argument forwarded by the thinker and philosopher Aristotle worked on three appeals; ethos, pathos, and logos.

  • Ethos is an appeal to credibility or character.
  • Pathos aims for an emotional response from the reader.
  • Logos seeks to persuade the reader through reason and logic.

The three devices can either be used simultaneously or separately, depending on the prowess of the writer and what has been requested. As a rhetorical device, it is important to know when best to use pathos as a rhetorical device because some arguments do not need the arousal of emotions to hold water. Pathos is often used in highly charged topics with a great significance to the human story. If used appropriately, it may spring an argument to life. With the Pathos, the writer will aim to appeal to already cognizant emotions within the reader and hopefully use these emotions to convince the reader about an argument.

How Exactly Do You Elicit An Emotional Response?

Emotional feelings are quite different. As a speech device, one may be aiming to elicit different reactions such as anger, happiness, rage, empathy and a whole other range of other emotional states. The arousal of these emotions may be associated with certain types of style and language. Take the example of a cancer ad which aims to discourage the practice of smoking. The mood and the stylistic use of language will not be jovial and upbeat. It will be somber, and it will be designed for maximum effect on a young audience who haven’t had much experience with smoking to discourage them effectively. Of course, you will have to consider the type of audience before embarking on writing a pathos essay.

Psychologists figure that decision making in large part is usually based on emotions and unconscious background processes. Writing your essay bearing in mind that logos and ethos only play a part in the final decision making will help you choose the right words to use in your essay. A great way to elicit emotion, like the ad, is to use examples or illustrations. Often, these illustrations will have a direct link to the human value system, and this is why the Pathos is often used in quite controversial topics. Values are very personal in nature and therefore hoping to change these by mere speech can be futile. In creating content that appeals directly to your readers’ emotions, you should have some background understanding of their kind of thinking and value system. Otherwise, the pathos effect may backfire on you.

Style Is Important In Generating an Effective Pathos

Certain keywords and the use of stylistic references will go a long way in creating an emotional effect. Certain word sequences will also work to that effect. Figures of speech will often be aligned to produce emotional responses, even unconsciously. Also, the use of style may be limited by the type of emotional response one is aiming for. Thus, one should be cognizant of the situations where eliciting emotional responses in an argument would be inappropriate.

Anecdotes are a great way of eliciting an emotional response from a reader. Personal narratives always have a way of connecting audiences. For example, writing an essay about tighter regulations on firearms by beginning the essay with a story from a shooting victim will draw directly from the reader’s empathy and elicit the same responses of anger and empathy.

Images and other visuals are also a great way of invoking specific emotional responses from your reader. In the above example of a cancer ad, the pictures of people living with cancer will certainly add to that effect of discouraging future smokers especially young ones. However, before using such methods, the appropriateness should be confirmed and tested so as not to arouse some damaging sensitivities.

Quoting directly from protagonists and other actors also has a great effect on the reader, especially when writing an essay. Think about the Black Liberation struggle and how quoting Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X immediately conjures up emotions of suppression ad liberty in the same go.

Humour may also be used as a Pathos device, although satirical humor may transcend into the logos branch of rhetoric.