What is an example of an emotional appeal?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pathos is a rhetorical device used to persuade an audience by appealing to its emotions. As groups of people tend to be more emotionally suggestible than individuals, pathos is often used in speeches, both in the real world and in works of literature. A particularly good example of the latter comes in the shape of Mark Antony's speech in Act III Scene II of Julius Caesar. Mark Antony knows that his audience, the Roman plebs, loved Caesar, and so he blatantly plays on their emotions to show that he too felt the same way:

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me. (weeps)
Mark Antony knows his audience. And that's an important consideration for Aristotle in his Rhetoric:
The Emotions are all those feelings that so change men as to affect their judgements, and that are also attended by pain or pleasure. Such are anger, pity, fear and the like, with their opposites. We must arrange what we have to say about each of them under three heads. Take, for instance, the emotion of anger: here we must discover (1) what the state of mind of angry people is, (2) who the people are with whom they usually get angry, and (3) on what grounds they get angry with them.
An expert rhetorician senses the mood of his audience and attempts to persuade them accordingly. Values and belief systems are important topics to use as they relate to the very core of the audience's being. Returning to Mark Antony's speech, we see that he skillfully plays upon the Roman mob's love of Caesar. In using pathos, he's telling his audience a story, one in which they themselves played a leading role. By flattering the mob's self image, Mark Antony is reducing the ability of his audience to judge rationally. In any case, why would they challenge his version of events when they already correspond with how they see things? Rational arguments can always be countered by other rational arguments. Emotional appeals, however, are much more difficult to counteract. And that's why Mark Antony's speech proves to be so incredibly successful.
pnhancock eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An emotional appeal is a type of persuasion identified by Aristotle that tries to convince an audience by provoking an emotional response. Aristotle referred to emotional appeals as "pathos," which means suffering, and contrasted it to appeals to authority, or ethos, and appeals to logic, or logos.

One famous example of pathos is Maya Angelou's poem, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Angelou uses images invoking empathy for a restrained animal to create a metaphor for the oppression of humans. An example of imagery in the poem that uses pathos is the following:

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

Phrases like "grave of dreams," "nightmare scream," and "wings are clipped" create images of suffering to create an emotional response in the audience. Describing with vivid language a restrained and miserable animal in a nightmarish trap is meant to invoke a response of empathy for the bird, so it is an example of pathos in literature.

metwitchell | Student

Pathos is a rhetorical technique used to persuade one's audience. Pathos, meaning suffering, is an argument based on emotions such as fear, anger, sympathy or desire.

Pathos is not only used in literature; pathos can also be found in movies and TV. For example, TV ads from animal shelters appeal to your emotions of sadness or sympathy because they show animals with sad eyes in cages who have no home.

Read the study guide:
Aristotle

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