What is an example of an appeal to character in "Thank God for the Atom Bomb?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One example of an appeal to character in Fussell's essay is the automatic respect generated from hearing a narrative of one who was "on the front lines."  Fussell's essay draws from the experience of a soldier.  In hearing the debate about the atomic bomb from a soldier's point of view, an appeal to character is evident from the exposition of the essay.  In describing how a soldier viewed the war, there is a direct appeal to character in Fussell's mode of presentation and persuasion:

The experience I’m talking about is having to come to grips, face to face, with an enemy who designs your death. The experience is common to those in the marines and the infantry and even the line navy, to those, in short, who fought the Second World War mindful always that their mission was, as they were repeatedly assured, “to close with the enemy and destroy him."

In appealing to the character of a soldier, Fussell suggests that the condition of war is one in which the destruction of the enemy is the most important element.  Fussell speaks from a soldier's point of view, an appeal that causes the reader to reflect on the terror of war.  It is a persuasion that carries credibility because of the proximity to the horrors of war.  For example, when Fussell suggests that an argument against dropping the bomb was to simply wait for a couple of weeks until Japanese surrender, he reverts back to the soldier's point of view: "Two weeks more means 14,000 more killed and wounded, three weeks  more, 21,000. Those weeks mean the world if you’re one of those thousands or related to one of them."  In this appeal to the soldier's character, Fussell seeks to offer a point of persuasion to the reader about the necessity to have dropped in the atomic bomb in World War II.


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