How does Hurston use ethos in "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"?

Hurston uses ethos in "How it Feels to Be Colored Me" by characterizing herself as a likable and believable persona whose side readers want to take. She does this through humor, word choice, and metaphor.

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Ethos is a persuasive device that works with logic and emotion. Ethos is the character a writer projects: a writer with a positive ethos convinces readers that she is authoritative and believable. Such a writer gets readers on her side.

While characterizing herself in this essay, Hurston creates a bond with the reader from the start through joking and showing her skill at telling an entertaining story. As she gets to the core ideas in her essay, she uses positive words to help the reader identify with her point of view, such as "bully adventure," "glory," and "exciting," to show how life feels to her. She wants readers to agree with her that it is best to approach life with a positive attitude and to focus on getting ahead.

In contrast, she uses negative terms to characterize her opponents in the Black community. She writes of the "sobbing school of Negrohood" which feels it has gotten a "lowdown dirty deal." As most people don't want to be identified with whining, the reader's tendency is to reject the attitude these other individuals demonstrated and lean toward Hurston's energy and optimism.

Hurston is masterful in her use of rhetoric, ending with the metaphor of people of different races as different colored bags that are all essentially the same on the inside. This metaphor is easy to grasp and to agree with, as it is coming from a writer who has established a strong positive ethos.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 18, 2021
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