In the study of rhetoric, “ethos” is defined as an appeal to an audience based on the ethical character of the speaker or writer. “Pathos” is defined as an appeal to the emotions of the audience. In his essay titled “The Men We Carry in Our Minds,” Scott Russell Sanders uses both kinds of appeals quite effectively. Examples of his use of these kinds of appeal include the following:
- The opening sentence of the essay implies that Sanders is capable of sympathy for others besides himself.
- His later commentary about the multiple demands and pressures women feel implies the same thing.
- The fact that he allows the woman with whom he is conversing to have her say – even when some of what she says about men is negative – implies Sanders’ fundamental fairness.
- Sanders’ confession of his various feelings of guilt about the mistreatment of others implies that he is literally ethical and moral.
- The fact that Sanders is willing to let a woman refer to men as persecutors implies once more his abundant willingness to listen to others and to let others have their say.
- By confessing that when he was younger, he was “slow to understand the grievances of women,” Sanders once more shows his fundamental honesty.
- By defending hard-working men against the blanket charges of those feminists who could seem too critical, Sanders shows his commitment to justice and equity.
- By ending his essay with a strong sense of balance, Sanders implies his intelligence as well as his commitment to common sense.
- Sanders’ various expressions of sympathy for many of the hard-working men he grew up watching evokes similar sympathy in his readers. Sanders makes quite vivid and memorable the difficult, backbreaking toil these men faced and the physical and psychological toll it often exacted from them:
The bodies of the men I knew were twisted and maimed in ways visible and invisible.
- By reminding all his readers (including women) of the hard lives many men had to endure to support their families, Sanders appeals to the compassion of his audience.
- By reminding his readers that not all the suffering endured by men was simply physical but was often psychological and emotional, he appeals to the emotions of his own audience.
- By suggesting that some women may have unfairly criticized some men, he attempts to arouse the same feelings of guilt (this time about the mistreatment of men) that he himself had earlier confessed about the mistreatment of women and other groups.
In short, Sanders uses both ethos and pathos quite effectively in this essay. He makes it difficult to imagine a reader who could realistically disagree with him without seeming unethical or unsympathetic himself or herself.