Rhetoric in its simplest form is the art of
persuasive speech or writing. For thousands of years,
politicians and orators have been known for their use of rhetoric to influence and persuade an audience to their side or way of thinking. Rhetoric is all around us, in the form of political speeches, commercials, art, television, movies, newspaper and magazine articles—even in our everyday conversations. Each time we want to get our way, or take out our money to buy a product we saw in a commercial, we are either using rhetoric or are persuaded by the use of rhetoric. While various media use different ways of appealing to an audience, they each have the same purpose: to persuade.
There are different ways a speaker or writer can appeal and seek to persuade to his or her audience: 1) logic or reason (
logos), 2) emotion (
pathos), and/or 3) ethics and morals (
Logos: by appealing to an audience’s sense of reason and logic, the speaker
intends to make the audience think clearly about the sensible and/or obvious answer to a problem
Logos appeals to the audience with facts, statistics, definitions, historical proof, quotes from “experts.” Think of the commercials that have a sports star or celebrity giving statistics about and their own endorsement of a product. It is logical that if a sports star uses this elliptical machine and is in shape that it works—or at least, that is what you are led to believe.
Pathos: by appealing to the audience’s emotions, the speaker or writer can make the
audience feel sorrow, shame, sympathy, embarrassment, anger, excitement, and/or fear.
Pathos appeals to the audience through the use of figurative language, imagery, vivid descriptions, an emotional choice of words, or examples that are designed to make you FEEL a certain way. Think of an ad or an article showing our servicemen in uniform holding their tiny newborns or hugging their child and wife, with tears streaming down their eyes.
Ethos: the overall appeal of the speaker or writer himself or herself; it is important that this
person have impressive credentials, a notable knowledge of the subject, and/or appear to be a likeable and moral person.
Ethos appeals to the audience with a calm, trustworthy, seemingly sincere approach. The speaker uses good grammar and is well-spoken, and tells stories that are backed by general common sense and need to feel secure. Think of a commercial of a “doctor” in a white lab coat telling the audience all about how a new medicine can help treat one’s symptoms. We listen because we trust the doctor, who appears to be well-spoken and knowledgeable about his subject.
It is not only important what a speaker or writer has to say, but
how he or she actually says or presents it. There are literally hundreds of rhetorical devices, dating back to the famous orators Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
Analysis of Rhetoric and Rhetorical Devices Activity
Directions: Use Bush’s Speech to answer the following questions with thought and support.
1. Who do you think is the intended audience for this piece?
2. Using Bush’s entire speech find two examples of each of the use of pathos, ethos, and logos. Be sure to indicate which line or section you are quoting in your response, explaining/defending your choice.
1. Choose three parts of the speech that were particularly interesting or memorable to you. Why did you choose these particular segments to highlight? How did they appeal to you (logos, pathos, ethos)?
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