What is an example of an emotional appeal?

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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.

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