Narration and Logos, Pathos and Ethos

Narration and
Logos, Pathos and Ethos
Developmental writing students make important strides learning
to write narration before beginning argumentation.
Rhetoric—the crafting of persuasion—can be developed through
narrative techniques.
Narrative was once intricately woven through rhetoric, but
became disentangled as technical logic separated from rhetorical
Today narration is making a come-back. Narrative theory has
expanded the definition of narration and has shown its
effectiveness in a variety of disciplines.
Narration and Logos
According to Aristotle, logos, appeal to reason, can be developed
through enthymeme, maxim and example.
Story is a natural vehicle for enthymeme—narrated events can lead
the listener to an unstated conclusion or moral, inviting the
audience to write “the rest of the story.”
Maxims, wise sayings, are often the concluding statements to fables
and stories.
Examples give the rhetor the opportunity to recount past facts, use
parallel illustrations (speculation), and fable to demonstrate a
particular instance of a general concern (Aristotle again).
Examples are the most common support my students use for
argument, and by learning to write a detailed, well-crafted story
(true, speculative or made-up), they have the confidence to use
examples in their essays.
Example of Developing
Logos through Narration
From FDR’s “War Message,” Dec. 8, 1941—story of “true facts”
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked
by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the
solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government
and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced
bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador
to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of
State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this
reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing
diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of
armed attack.
Narration and Pathos
Appeal to emotion, pathos, can be more influential than logos
Pathos can help the speaker establish identification with the
audience (Burke).
Connecting with values common to the audience can be achieved
through pathos.
Narration is a useful tool in shaping pathos.
Introductory stories say to the audience, “I’m like you.”
Stories can be used to give the audience a picture of a
particular need (a hungry child that needs to be fed), tapping into
common values and inviting response.
Example of Developing
Pathos through Narration
Harper Lee accomplishes identification with her
characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, showing the
audience “that the black characters in the books
were people just like them” (Kuypers 138).
Many speakers use an opening story to say just
that: “I might look different, come from a
different country or culture, vote for a different
political party, but we have this in common. . .”
A story about the death of an innocent child or
the horrors of the Holocaust can tap into our
emotional nature in a way that statistical data
and other forms of argument cannot do” (138).
Narration and Ethos
Ethos, the writer’s character and credibility, are essential for
audience reception.
Quintilian’s insistence that an orator is a good man speaking well
places importance on the moral character and credibility of the
Ethos can be established through narration, as many speakers and
companies rely on a narrative account of events to show how they
arrived at their present conclusion, or to describe how they fought a
fair fight, produced a better product, or overcame a difficulty.
Example of Developing
Ethos through Narration
Recent commercials by Bausch and Lomb
tell how they discovered the problem with
their contact solution, responded quickly
to the problem, pulled the product, and
developed a new and safer contact
solution for the public. Through story, this
company is trying to re-establish their
credibility with their customers.
As human beings, we are natural storytellers and story-consumers. Learning to
test and develop persuasive abilities
through narration teaches students
important lessons about logos, pathos and
ethos in their writing.