Using Pathos as a Rhetorical Device in Commercials and Writing


About a week ago, I wrote that in rhetorical writing, the writer can use one of four devices or any combination of the four Here.

I followed that by writing a piece that demonstrates the use of Ehtos Here.

When a writer relies on Ethos, he relies on his credentials to persuade his reader.

When a writer uses Pathos, he hopes to persuade his reader with emotion. No doubt, the commercials for the animal shelters are some of the best at using Pathos to persuade. They are heart-wrenching, but Pathos can employ other types of emotions, too.

Last year, I saw the Geico Free Range Chicken commercial at the movie theater, and unlike the animal shelter commercial that breaks my heart, the Free Range Chicken commercial made me smile.

The movie begins with a happy song, and we see this spunky chicken somewhere along his journey. There are activists who would be moved simply by the fact that this chicken is not “cooped” up, but there are other positive things going on, too. For instance, the chicken goes to a bonfire where everyone is laughing, and he sits at a diner and sees some other poor chicken’s eggs plastered on a plate.

Chickens are popular with house decorators. In almost any store that sells decorative items, one can buy a wide variety of things with chickens on them, but the chicken in the Geico commercial is more than a piece of glass that rests on a shelf. This chicken rides in the front of a truck, sitting beside the driver, and he enjoys his view of the world, as it passes by. This chicken makes us happy, and we respond.

At the end of the commercial, we see Pathos used in another way. We are currently a generation of people who use social media to connect with other people and to rub it in when we don’t want others to quite connect with us. Facebook is the biggest pretense in the world. Most people who travel love to post all of their exciting photos along the way, and the rest of us, who are stuck back home, see the photos and feel envious. In the Free Range Commercial, the Chicken is apparently flaunting his adventures to Ma & Pa who are stuck back on the farm.

Pa says, “He just keeps sending more pictures.”

Most of us can identify with Pa on that one, and we are moved. That also is a use of Pathos.

©Jacki Kellum July 18, 2016




4 thoughts on “Using Pathos as a Rhetorical Device in Commercials and Writing

  1. I’m happy and encouraged over your writing about the Classical appeals and how they actually work. How they work whether we’re aware or not. So let’s be aware. One of my writing classes is dealing exclusively with persuasion, so the appeals are naturally enough a big part. I’ll take learners through the logical fallacies, too. Things we are victims of, if we’re not aware. These parts of discourse do not get raised enough. Bless you for doing just this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just posted a piece about Kairos. You know, Christopher, when I was in college, no one taught me these classical appeals; yet, anyone who reads my blog knows that I rely heavily on Pathos. This is a good illustration of the importance of staying current with new educational approaches. If I had not taken the free course from Ohio State, I would not have learned about all of the rhetorical devices.

      Do you see this post that lists all of the free courses that I am currently taking? Jump in. The water’s right:


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