As you read, pay attention to your reactions to what Pollan is proposing about food and American food culture. You will undoubtedly have reactions to the different ways he crafts his arguments and...

As you read, pay attention to your reactions to what Pollan is proposing about food and American food culture. You will undoubtedly have reactions to the different ways he crafts his arguments and makes his points. (1) He’ll make you think (logos) about what you eat, where you grocery shop, what’s in your food; (2) he’ll make you feel (pathos) something and react emotionally (in disgust, in fear, in sadness, in happiness, etc.); (3) he’ll make you feel like you can believe him (ethos), like he is an expert on his topic (or you may question his authority). Find an example of each type of rhetorical appeal Pollan uses (logos, pathos, ethos) in Sections 2 and/or 3, and explain why this technique is effective or ineffective.

1 Answer | Add Yours

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Your assignment is clearly one that you will have to do from within your own reactions to your own reading, but it is possible to help jump-start your thinking by helping to jump-start your understanding with examples of three excerpts from "Part II, Pastoral: Grass," that are meant to elicit pathos, logos and ethos.

Pathos

Text (whether written or delivered in a speech or a drama) that elicits what the Greeks and contemporary rhetoric calls "pathos" is text which brings out a sympathetic emotional reaction from the reader or listener, sympathetic to the message being delivered by the writer or speaker. The speaker may be denouncing Caesar, as Brutus does in Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, or the speaker may be praising Brutus, as Antony does in the same play.

Pathos is an emotional reaction from the reader or listener that agrees with the emotion the writer or speaker is intentionally trying to bring forth. Consequently, should the reader or listener have a contrary emotional reaction to the one intended, then the writer or speaker has failed. For example, during Barak Obama's first presidential campaign, if his picturesque situational rhetoric, meant to elicit trust and confidence in him, had elicited an angry emotional reaction to "empty" rhetoric, then Obama's speech would have failed.

Michael Pollan effectively introduces pathos intended to elicit a compassionate and earnest emotional response--one intended to elicit trust and empathy between writer and reader--in the following excerpt from Part II:

EIGHT
ALL FLESH IS GRASS
I. Green Acres
What can I say? I was tired. I'd spent the afternoon making hay, really just lending a hand to a farmer making hay, and after a few hours in the midday sun hoisting and throwing fifty-pound bales onto a hay wagon, I hurt. We think of grass as soft and hospitable stuff, but once it's been dried in the sun and shredded by machines--once it's become hay--grass is sharp enough to draw blood and dusty enough to thicken lungs. I was covered in chaff, my forearms tattooed red with its pinpricks.

Logos

Text that elicits what is called "logos" is text which is intended to focus the reader's or listener's attention on facts, facts that are meant to sway them to accept, believe in, support and take action for a specific point of view, position, argument or belief. If the facts are poorly or weakly presented, then the reaction may be opposition to the favored stance and the writer or speaker will have failed.

Pollan effectively introduces logos intended to elicit a well-reasoned response of agreement from the reader with the principals exemplified on Salatin's farm in the following excerpt from Part II:

EIGHT
ALL FLESH IS GRASS
II. The Genius of the Place
And while they were at it, nibbling on the short cattle-clipped grasses they like best, the chickens applied a few thousand pounds of nitrogen to the pasture--and produced several thousand uncommonly rich and tasty eggs. After a few weeks' rest, the pasture will be grazed again, each steer turning these lush grasses into beef at a rate of two or three pounds a day.  

Ethos

Text that elicits what is called "ethos" is text which is intended to present and prove the writer's or speaker's background, experience and authority to speak, lead and instruct on the topic and course of action at hand. If the writer or speaker cannot effectively present and prove their right and authority to discuss a topic, then they will fail to convince the reader or listener that they present a valid case, argument or option.

Pollan effectively introduces ethos intended to establish his authority to speak about food and food farming by giving an exact description of Salatin's expertise, which forms the basis of Pollan's presentation in The Omnivore's Dilemma, as in the following excerpt from Part II:

EIGHT
ALL FLESH IS GRASS
II. The Genius of the Place
... the first time I met Salatin he'd insisted that even before I met any of his animals, I get down on my belly in this very pasture to make acquaintance of the less charismatic species his farm was nurturing that, in turn, were nurturing his farm. Taking the ant's-eye view, he ticked off the census of a single square foot of pasture: ... belowdecks and out of sight tunneled earthworms (knowable by their castled mounds of rich castings), woodchucks, moles and burrowing insects, all making their dim way through an unseen wilderness of bacteria, phages, eelish nematodes, shrimpy rotifers, and miles upon miles of mycelium, the underground filaments of fungi. We think of the grasses as the basis of this food chain, yet behind, or beneath, the grassland stands the soil, that inconceivably complex community of the living and the dead. Because a healthy soil digests the dead to nourish the living, Salatin calls it the earth's stomach.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question