Pathos Final Argument

Final Project

You will craft a 4-5 page written argument addressed to your peers in this class that is designed to move them to a specific action or attitude. You may use an image or two, embedded into a word file, if appropriate. You may also link to sound file or video, but you must provide the actual URL in your works cited page, and you must make sure the links work. Do not substitute an image for your vivid description: use an image, if you wish, as a backdrop for your vivid description.


1) Begin by determining exactly what claim you’ll make and your purpose: what do you want to accomplish by supporting that claim? What do you want your audience to feel, believe, or do?

2) Determine what sorts of pathetic appeals will best support your claim and most effectively motivate your audience. If I wanted to move a family already interested in getting a dog to get a shelter or rescue instead of going to a breeder, I might want to “show” them through vivid description and/or images the horrifying existence of breeding dogs in puppy mills; this would provoke sadness, pity, perhaps anger at the puppy mills and those who keep them running. I might want to “show” the sadness and despair of animals stuck in shelters; this would provoke, again, sadness, pity. Or perhaps I’d want to paint images of a hopeless, abandoned dog getting a second chance with an adopted family; this would fill the reader with hope and determination.

If I wanted to convince my audience to vote for a clean water bill, on the other hand, it probably wouldn’t help me to offer up images of puppies (no matter how cute), but it might help me to describe very vividly and with powerfully figurative language, the filth that they are currently drinking whenever they pour themselves a glass of water. And so on.

Once you determine what sort of emotion(s) you want to provoke in your audience and how to go about doing that (through vivid descriptions, figurative language, emotionally-charged language, images, sounds), you’ll obviously want to determine other necessary appeals. That is, you’ll need to offer up an intelligent, trustworthy ethos, at the very least, and you’ll need to appeal at some level to the audience’s sense of reasonableness. (By now you’ll realize that the three modes of rhetorical appeal are not discrete or distinct but “bleed” into each other.) If you’re going to marshal up “facts” or “stats,” for example, you’ll need to attribute them to reputable sources, and then document those sources on the Works Cited page. For your pathetic appeal to work, you’ll need to come across as both credible and reasonable.

Your main appeal should be pathetic, though, bolstered by your strong ethos and the reasoned movement from the emotion provoked to the behavior for which you’re calling.

3) Organize your appeals and craft a 4-5 page, double-spaced essay for your classmates (we are your audience) that makes your argument using vivid description and an appropriate level of emotionally charged language to move your audience to a specific action or attitude.

4) This assignment will be peer reviewed.

A student example (FinalArgument-EliRoden) from the 2013 course.


Peer Review Rubric
Criteria Ratings Pts

Initial Impressions

Did you find this piece affectively compelling? Was there anything that felt off or
just didn’t work for you, where you got lost, distracted, or confused? If so, point
the author to the problem areas.
0 pts


What is the author’s main claim? Is it clear? If not, what would you suggest?
What is the author’s purpose? (What does s/he want the audience to do?) Is it
clear? If not, what would you suggest?
5 pts

Pathetic Appeals

Does the author use enargeia (active metaphors, personification, vivid description)
and/or emotionally charged language effectively? If so, where is it used? If not, what
went wrong and/or what might help? Does the author use other pathetic appeals to
move the reader to action or attitude? If so, where are the pathemata in this text and
how do they work? What emotions do they provoke? What behaviors are they designed
to compel? Could the pathetic appeals be more moving or persuasive? If so, how?
Would you recommend any other pathetic appeals the author might consider?
10 pts


Does the argument as a whole seem reasonable, as well as moving? If not, what might
make it seem more reasonable? Does the author seem credible? If so, what sorts of
ethical appeals are used? If not, what might help?
5 pts


Is the paper written effectively and coherently with very few typos and grammatical
errors? If so, note it. If not, point out recurring issues.
5 pts
Total Points: 25