The Fallacy of Success by G. K. Chesterton

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The Fallacy of Success Rhetorical Analysis Activity

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Excerpt From This Document

This activity gives students an opportunity to practice examining and analyzing rhetorical appeals. Effective appeals address all aspects of the rhetorical situation in any text or speech: the speaker, the audience, and the message. With this rhetorical situation in mind, Aristotle sought a means to most effectively convey ideas. He identified three general persuasive strategies, known as appeals, that address the three elements of the rhetorical situation: ethos, the appeal to the speaker’s authority; pathos, the appeal to the audience’s emotions; and logos, the appeal to the message’s logic. In completing this activity, students will be able to examine and analyze Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals in order to evaluate works of rhetoric and the techniques they employ.

G.K. Chesterton published “The Fallacy of Success,” one of his most influential essays, in his 1909 collection All Things Considered. In the essay, Chesterton attacks with great relish the rise of books and articles about “Success.” To Chesterton, the type of success promoted in these works is a phantom, too abstract to serve as a genuine goal or offer any practical advice. Moreover, the pursuit of success, exemplified by such titans of industry as Vanderbilt and Rothschild, is a corrupt moral aim. In arguing the vacuousness and vileness of “Success,” Chesterton makes use of Aristotle’s three classical rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos.

Skills: analysis, close reading, drawing inferences from a text, examining the impact of diction on audience

Learning Objectives:
In completing this activity, students will

  • examine appeals in a text; 
  • classify appeals in a text as ethos, pathos, or logos
  • distinguish the methods that make the appeal effective; 
  • evaluate how the appeal contributes to the overall message.

About this Document

Our eNotes Classroom Activities give students opportunities to practice developing a variety of skills. Whether analyzing literary devices or interpreting connotative language, students will work directly with the text. The main components of our classroom activities include the following:

  • A handout defining the literary elements under discussion, complete with examples
  • A step-by-step guide to activity procedure
  • An answer key or selected examples for reference, depending on the activity

In completing these classroom activities, students will be able to classify and analyze different literary elements, thereby developing close-reading skills and drawing deeper inferences from the text.