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Use Of Pathos In Writings On Torture

1487 words - 6 pages

Torture is a loaded word. It conjures images in a readers' mind of any number of horrors, physical and mental. Many writers rely on this reaction and use pathos in their articles to illicit a strong response in their audience. Pathos is an emotional appeal used to gain sympathy and trust from the audience and works for people of all intellectual levels. It often casts the author or characters in a story as an Everyman, easy to identify, and therefore see eye to eye, with. In my opinion, the more an author is able to create a personal connection to torture, the stronger their argument becomes. Strong emotions create a more appealing argument for an everyday audience.
Michael Levin's “The Case for Torture” uses a few moments of pathos to convince the audience of the potential benefit of torture. He poses several scenarios of terrorists planning attacks on large numbers of innocent people and then asks, “If the only way to save those lives is to subject the terrorist to the most excruciating possible pain, what grounds can there be for not doing so?” Even if you don't agree with him, he urges the reader to “face the question with an open mind.” By doing this, Levin uses pathos as well as ethos to present himself as a nice guy who's not unreasonable. Though his argument is different from Levin's, Andrew Sullivan tries a similar approach in his article, “Bush's torturers follow where the Nazis led”. The article demonstrates a clear use of pathos from the beginning. Sullivan begins with some personal information about himself, showing that is is one of the regular people. His imagery is subtle but powerful. By implying that the government's behavior is in some way akin to the Nazis, he conjures up a powerful imagine in the readers mind. By using loaded words like Nazi and terrorist the audience is prone to fear and loathing. Henry Porter's “America's Dirty Torture Secret” evokes a reaction the same way. He talks about prisoners being packaged and rendered, two terms that allude to meat packaging. Pathos relies on this kind of unconscious word recognition in the reader to heighten awareness and sensitivity.
I think these articles are good but they lack true kick-in-the-guts emotional power. They talk about torture in the abstract, as something that happens to other people, a “what if?” situation. They difficult to relate to for an audience that is uninformed or undereducated about a topic.
“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, meanwhile, is ripe with the necessary emotional pull. This is accomplished in part through its genre: it is a fictional short story, not a news or journal article. Ursula Le Guin begins her story by painting an elaborate pictures of an almost surreal, perfect place. Suddenly, however, the story becomes sinister – all of the beauty what we've seen is dependent on the continued torture of one small child. Everyone in town knows about this torture but no one is willing to do anything to stop it knowing that everything they have...

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