Rhetorical Appeals Essay

Rhetorical Appeals Essay “The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped the longest. ” This gruesome quote comes from the authentic book Frederick Douglass An American Slave. Douglass, the author of the book, scribes his experiences as a slave, and the peculiar people he meets along the way. Through his writing, Douglass appeals most to pathos through the cruelty thrown upon his aunt, the freedom of the Chesapeake, and his struggle with working while being sick.

Slavery for Douglass was a constant struggle; however, he always found some way to turn it into a lesson. Douglass’ pathos was a beacon of light into slavery. When Douglass described his aunts whipping as, “He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin,” (Douglass 7) he painted a blank canvas into a Picasso-worthy sketch.

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This makes readers feel like they are there witnessing the appalling scene, through words like scream, whip, hush, fatigue, and blood-clotted. Not only does Douglass make the audience concentrate on the viciousness of the whipping, but he makes them feel sorrow and grief toward victims of slavery; conversely, Douglass causes the reader to feel revulsion and disgust toward slave owners. Repetition of words like scream, blood, and whipped really bring out pathos; as well as, making the reader think about those vivid images in their head.

Douglass’ use of pathos created luminosity over the dark shadow of slavery brutality. Another atypical use of pathos is when Douglass writes, “Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake Bay, whose broad bosom was ever white with sails from every quarter of the habitable globe. Those beautiful vessels, robed in purest white, so delightful to the eye of freemen…. torment me with thoughts of my wretched condition. ” (Douglass 82) Unlike most of the pathos used in Douglass’ book, this has a hopeful outlook.

Using words like bosom, robed, white, delightful, beautiful, and freemen, Douglass makes the Chesapeake look like a stunning town to be free in, and makes the reader want to go and be there. The use of pathos here makes the reader feel warmness and hopefulness for a second, but the Douglass brings the point back up that it is virtually impossible to be in that place. Douglass’ exercise of pathos shows radiance to the thought of freedom during slavery.

Pathos can also be seen through: “He then gave me a savage kick in the side, and told me to get up, I tried to do so, but I fell back in the attempt. He gave me another kick, and again told me to rise… Mr. Covey took up the hickory slat… gave me a heavy blow upon the head, making a large wound, the blood ran freely. ” (Douglass 86) The reiteration of kicking Douglass in the side, and then forcing him to get up, really afflicts to pathos. This causes the reader to feel sympathy for Douglass, and greatly more so when he is thumped across his head with a slat.

Pathos here symbolizes how slavery was a regressive act, and that the further cruelty was imposed on the slaves, the more it demoralized them. Douglass’ utilization of pathos beamed on the cruelty of slave owners everywhere. Pathos was effortlessly the most efficient appeal in Douglass’ novel. Through graphic words and phrases, repetition of words, and the fact he appealed to our deep down emotions proved that pathos affected how we felt about slavery and Douglass himself. Douglass’ employing of pathos shined the light over the midnight field of slavery forever.


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