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Pathos

1. What is it?

Pathos is the act of persuading an audience by using its emotions. By making people angry, jealous, sympathetic, etc., the writer hopes to make people follow his/her idea.

2. How is it made?

Describe situations that appeal to people’s strongest immediate emotions, such as anger, jealousy, forgiveness, sympathy, and empathy.Choose words that establish feeling. These can be extreme (‘terrorist’, ‘martyr’) or subtle vocabulary changes (‘avid supporter’ vs. ‘like’).
Supplement with visuals or imagery.Use analogies, metaphors and stories to tap into pre-existing emotions connected to other ideas.
Set up a final emotion by first creating its opposite (for example, sadness is felt more strongly after joy).

3. Examples

“I’m sorry Max. We can’t go to Italy this year. Your father has to work.” His mother tried to sooth him. “Maybe next year things will be better.”
Max’s face fell like a melting 99. To ever see a boy’s dreams break quietly, for he does understand the sacrifice parents make, is heartbreaking. That loss of hope is like a soul losing moisture, which runs to the tear ducts and drops. The first couple of tears fell.
His mum took his hand.
“Dad can’t go. But maybe these will help.”
She brought from her pocket two Disneyland tickets.
The surprise that beamed across Max’s face was forever. He looked at her, and for the first time said:
“I love you.”
“I love you too, my little spaceship.”


When I first saw this little puppy’s face I could instantly tell she was friendly. There was a beautiful curiosity in her eyes and it made me think of the faces of children on their first day of kindergarten: sometimes unsure, occasionally afraid, but filled with hope and possibilities. Yet, 3 months later, the dog I saw had changed. The innocence was still there, but so was a deep sadness and a sense of confusion. It was a confusion about why it had been beaten, physically abused to the extent that there were scars on its growing body that would never disappear. Scabs behind its ears. A cigarette burn on its hind legs. This dog had been cruelly abused by a human that did not merit the title ‘owner’. I had to get this young life out of that situation.

4. Examples in literature

The Gift of the Magi
by O. Henry

Know Your Book

Title: The Gift of the Magi
Author: O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) (1862-1910)
Published: 1905
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; short story; comic irony
Plot: Della cuts and sells her hair so she can buy her husband Jim a watch chain as a Christmas present. Unfortunately, on the very same day Jim sells his watch in order to buy Della some combs for her hair. Both presents are therefore useless, but the sacrifices the couple made prove their love.
Setting: Christmas Eve
Characters: Della; Jim

Excerpt:

“Don’t make any mistake, Dell,” he said, “about me. I don’t think there’s anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first.”
White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.
For there lay The Combs—the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims—just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.
But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: “My hair grows so fast, Jim!”
And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, “Oh, oh!”
Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. Thedull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.
“Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it.”
Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.
“Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.”

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. What are the two characters’ names?
2. What presents did the couple give each other?
3. Why are the presents useless?
4. What time of year is the story told? 
Identifying Techniques

5. In what narrative voice is The Gift of the Magi told?
6. The writer uses pathos to elicit emotions. What emotions did you feel, and how did the writer make you feel these?
7. Pathos is used to persuade. What is the author trying to persuade the audience to believe, think, or do? Is he successful?
8. O.Henry’s writing is famous for its ironic twists. How is irony used in this passage? 
Text Analysis

9. Compare the reactions of the two characters to their respective presents. In what way are they similar or different?
10. There is a contrast between the lives the characters live, and the presents they give each other. Highlight the words or phrases that show beauty or splendour in the presents. Underline those that show the simplicity of their lives.
11. What effect or tone is created by the final sentence of this passage?
12. Compare the tone of The Gift of the Magi to the tone of The Rights of Man (see: Chapter 2, Section II). What is the difference? How do the writers create their different tones? 
Provoking Opinion

13. The title The Gift of the Magi refers to the story of the three wise men visiting Jesus upon his birth. Why do you think O. Henry chose this title?
14. If you wanted to persuade somebody via pathos to do something for you, which emotion would you try to elicit? Why? How would you do this?
15. Most people read the characters in The Gift of the Magi sympathetically. Is there an alternative way to view their acts?
16. Do you think there is a moral to this story? Do you agree with it?

Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Know Your Book

Title: Преступление и наказание (*trans: Crime and Punishment)
Author: Фёдор Достоевский (*Fyodor Dostoyevsky) (1821-1881)
Published: 1866
Language: Russian
Genre: Fiction; psychological novel
Plot: Raskolnikov, a poor student, commits murder in order to steal money, convinced it is poverty that is stopping him being a great man. However, after committing the crime an extreme paranoia takes hold. Raskolnikov has an urge to confess to those closest to him, and the burden of what to do with the money he took. Meanwhile, another man claims responsibility for the crime, a confession that Det. Petrovich does not believe.
Setting: St. Petersburg
Characters: Rodion Raskolnikov; Razumikhin; Dunya; Det. Petrovich; Sonya

Excerpt from Part 1, Chapter 5 (*translated from Russian)

“Father, father,” he cried, “father, what are they doing? Father, they are beating the poor horse!”
“Come along, come along!” said his father. “They are drunken and foolish, they are in fun; come away, don’t look!” and he tried to draw him away, but he tore himself away from his hand, and, beside himself with horror, ran to the horse. The poor beast was in a bad way. She was gasping, standing still, then tugging again and almost falling.
“Beat her to death,” cried Mikolka, “it’s come to that. I’ll do for her!”
“What are you about, are you a Christian, you devil?” shouted an old man in the crowd.
“Did any one ever see the like? A wretched nag like that pulling such a cartload,” said another.
“You’ll kill her,” shouted the third.
“Don’t meddle! It’s my property. I’ll do what I choose. Get in, more of you! Get in, all of you! I will have her go at a gallop!…”
All at once laughter broke into a roar and covered everything: the mare, roused by the shower of blows, began feebly kicking. Even the old man could not help smiling. To think of a wretched little beast like that trying to kick!
Two lads in the crowd snatched up whips and ran to the mare to beat her about the ribs. One ran each side.
“Hit her in the face, in the eyes, in the eyes,” cried Mikolka.
“Give us a song, mates,” shouted someone in the cart and everyone in the cart joined in a riotous song, jingling a tambourine and whistling. The woman went on cracking nuts and laughing.
…He ran beside the mare, ran in front of her, saw her being whipped across the eyes, right in the eyes! He was crying, he felt choking, his tears were streaming. One of the men gave him a cut with the whip across the face, he did not feel it. Wringing his hands and screaming, he rushed up to the grey-headed old man with the grey beard, who was shaking his head in disapproval. One woman seized him by the hand and would have taken him away, but he tore himself from her and ran back to the mare. She was almost at the last gasp, but began kicking once more.
“I’ll teach you to kick,” Mikolka shouted ferociously. He threw down the whip, bent forward and picked up from the bottom of the cart a long, thick shaft, he took hold of one end with both hands and with an effort brandished it over the mare.
“He’ll crush her,” was shouted round him. “He’ll kill her!”
“It’s my property,” shouted Mikolka and brought the shaft down with a swinging blow. There was a sound of a heavy thud.
“Thrash her, thrash her! Why have you stopped?” shouted voices in the crowd.
And Mikolka swung the shaft a second time and it fell a second time on the spine of the luckless mare. She sank back on her haunches, but lurched forward and tugged forward with all her force, tugged first on one side and then on the other, trying to move the cart. But the six whips were attacking her in all directions, and the shaft was raised again and fell upon her a third time, then a fourth, with heavy measured blows. Mikolka was in a fury that he could not kill her at one blow.
“She’s a tough one,” was shouted in the crowd.
“She’ll fall in a minute, mates, there will soon be an end of her,” said an admiring spectator in the crowd.
“Fetch an axe to her! Finish her off,” shouted a third.
“I’ll show you! Stand off,” Mikolka screamed frantically; he threw down the shaft, stooped down in the cart and picked up an iron crowbar. “Look out,” he shouted, and with all his might he dealt a stunning blow at the poor mare. The blow fell; the mare staggered, sank back, tried to pull, but the bar fell again with a swinging blow on her back and she fell on the ground like a log.
“Finish her off,” shouted Mikolka and he leapt beside himself, out of the cart. Several young men, also flushed with drink, seized anything they could come across – whips, sticks, poles, and ran to the dying mare. Mikolka stood on one side and began dealing random blows with the crowbar. The mare stretched out her head, drew a long breath and died.

1. The boy finds the men’s actions towards the horse

a) justified
b) confusing
c) blasphemous
d) comical
e) traumatic

Answer
e
2. The incident is an example of

a) social injustice
b) the effects of poverty
c) gender inequality
d) mob mentality
e) the need for parental care

Answer
d
3. The incident acts as an allegory of

a) a father-son relationship
b) social inequality
c) the dangerous effects of alcohol
d) mankind’s innate cruelty
e) political change

Answer
d
4. Pathos is primarily created in this scene via

a) Mikolka
b) the horse
c) the crowd
d) the son
e) the father

Answer
b
5. Compared to the characters in The Gift of the Magi, the characters in this passage from Crime and Punishment lack

a) mercy
b) creativity
c) brutality
d) compassion
e) obsession

Answer
d

5. Tasks

Task 1: Using pathos, write a paragraph that tries to persuade the reader to agree with your opinion of another person’s personality.
Task 2: Write a scene that makes the reader first feel sympathy for a character, then lose that sympathy and instead feel negatively.

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