A Talk to Teachers

by James Baldwin

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Identify four appeals to pathos in paragraphs 3–5 in James Baldwin's "A Talk to Teachers."

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Pathos is a word that describes appeals to the emotions, arguments that might evoke pity or sadness.

In the third paragraph, Baldwin describes the Negro child who is taught, early in his education, that his ancestors were "happy, shiftless, watermelon-eating darkies" who loved their white masters and that his only...

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value lies in his own "devotion to white people." Certainly, the thought of such ideas being imparted to a child is meant to draw sympathy from the audience.

Next, in the fourth paragraph, Baldwin describes the black child who "is aware that there is a reason why his mother works so hard, why his father is always on edge." Baldwin also says that this child learns, "in fact it begins when he is in school," just what his oppression looks like. Baldwin describes taking such a child to the zoo or some New York monument; even to leave his home, this child likely must pass "the pimps, the whores, the junkies—in a word, the danger[s] of life in the ghetto." We cannot but feel sympathy for this child who is aware of his parents' hardships of some stressors on them, this child who cannot even leave his home with seeing things most parents would love to protect their children from, this child who cannot even go to school and find it to be a safe space. Each of these instances represents an appeal to pathos.

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