Rhetorical Analysis Ethos Pathos Logos Essay

Our rhetorical analysis essay was one of the more interesting of my papers I would say. I decided to take a song and describe the ethos, pathos, and logos within the lyrics. It’s a song that’s been around for a little while called “Where is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas and I feel as though it really emphasized rhetoric. The message the song tries to portray is basically why don’t we stop with all of the fighting and harming of other people and just all love each other. Maybe a bit impractical, but it really does open your eyes to what is happening in the world and how it can affect children watching and experiencing tragedies occurring today. It is also one of my favorite songs, so that made writing the paper a little easier. I do think this essay shows off some of my strengths in writing, describing the ethos, pathos, and logos and applying it to something like a song. This assignment also let me dive into the song a little more, by looking up all of the lyrics I got to understand the exact message the group was trying to get across, although just listening will most likely have the same effect. 


Taylor Kantner

Rhetorical Analysis Essay



Where is the Love?

            “What’s wrong with the world, mama, people livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas.” The Black Eyed Peas open their song “Where is the Love?” and catch the audience’s attention with this line. Starting off with a question grabs the audience’s attention by making them have to think and realize something important that’s going on in our world today. Even though this song debuted nine years ago in 2003, it is still relevant to the world we live in today. That’s how big of an impact this song has had on people for them to still listen to it today. Three concepts that appear in the lyrics of this song are logos, ethos and pathos. Logos being the basic logic that people can gain from something, ethos is the credibility of the piece being discussed and pathos the emotional factor and touching people in some way, good or bad.The Black Eyed Peas’ song “Where is the Love?” contains evidence of logos, ethos, and pathos appeal in order to impact its audience in a more effective way. The evidence of logos throughout the song is seen through rhetorical and historical examples within the lyrics. The use of ethos is apparent throughout the lyrics when considering the definition of situated ethos. The pathos appeal is a very big portion of this song and is portrayed through Aristotle’s three criteria to arouse emotions from the audience.

The logos appeal is all about finding the logic in something. The logos in the lyrics of this song are brought to light through the use of rhetorical and historical examples. Rhetorical examples can be used to dig up memories or experiences the audience has gone through before. A good lyric from the song that supports this point is “overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism, but we still got terrorists her livin’ in the USA, the big CIA, the bloods and the crips and the KKK”. I think people can relate to these lyrics here because of the problems our country has had with terrorism in the past. People have gone through this kind of chaos and are stuck with memories they would rather not be stuck with the rest of their lives. The logic behind this lyric is that we are trying to stop all the horrible terrorism that goes on in our country, and even around the world, but no matter how hard we try we cannot defeat them all. There will still be terrorists living in our country, passed down from terrorists before. The audience that has experienced and gone through some type of monumental event in their lives can definitely relate to this logic more than someone who does not have any special connection. Another aspect of the logos in the lyrics can be accounted for through historical examples. “A war is goin’ on but the reason’s undercover” is an example of an historical example in the lyrics of this song. Our war going on in Iraq right now is discussed in these lyrics using logos because it is making people really think about why we went there in the first place and why we are still there now. While these lyrics portray evidence of logos, the song also contains evidence of ethos.

Ethos is known as the credibility the song holds and to what extent the audience believes in what is trying to be said. Ethos is prevalent in this song, prominently by using situated ethos. Situated ethos is defined as having previously established stereotypes or reputations of people. In this song, situated ethos is shown in a few places. One can be related to the lyrics, “most of us only care about money makin’, selfishness got us followin’ our wrong direction”. This simply describes the stereotype that most people only care about money and material things, rather than giving to others. The United States in particular has this reputation around the world. The stereotype that we are all greedy, materialistic, selfish people that only care about what gets us to the top, even if it means bringing others down along the way. Some stereotypes in our culture can be detrimental to kids, who are very easily influenced by the media. “Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria, kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema” is the perfect quote to go along with this point. Kids are the most easily influenced out of everyone and the media knows this and uses it to their advantage. The Black Eyed Peas are using this to get the point across that all these negative headlines and images kids are seeing on television and in magazines and on the internet are influencing the way kids see and think about themselves. This could really end up affecting these kids as they grow up and could hinder them in the future. While there is quite the amount of ethos displayed throughout the song, pathos is the most used out of the three.

Pathos is all about the emotion and how a person feels as he or she is listening to this song. The pathos appeal in the song is the most prevalent and can be shown through Aristotle’s three criteria to stimulate emotions from the audience. This song does a great job of bringing out the audience’s emotions and feel really connected in some way or another. One thing that I realized this song accomplishes, after reading the lyrics thoroughly, is making people feel like they want to get involved and make a change. This goes along with our discussion in class about civic engagement and just supports that idea even more. I know I felt like I wanted to help the world in some way after listening to this song over and over. We hear about awful things going on every day in the news and we think we can do nothing about it, but this song in a way brings out the audience’s emotions to want to try to make some sort of a difference. “Can you practice what you preach and would you turn the other cheek” is asking a person if you see all these terrible events going on are you really just going to forget and do nothing about it? The three criteria Aristotle mentions in the book are understanding the state of mind of the audience, who can excite these emotions, and understanding the reasons for people becoming emotional. A good quote to analyze for this purpose would be the start of the chorus when it says, “people killin’, people dyin’, children hurt and you hear them cryin’”. I think the type of people this would hit hardest would be parents or parental figures because the thought of children in any situation as the song suggests is just unimaginable. This would be understanding the mind of the audience and what could make them emotional thinking about their child in any such situation. The reason for why people would get emotional during this part of the song is self explanatory in that it is about the harming of innocent children. No one likes to hear about children getting hurt or killed, but all around the world this is happening, which brings us back to the civic engagement part of it all. Later on in the song, it says, “Nations dropping bombs, chemical gasses fillin’ lungs of little ones”, basically just another way to grab the audience and make them want to make some sort of a difference. Logos, ethos and pathos all work together in the end in order to get the proper reaction from the audience.

Overall, this song contains a great deal of all three: logos, ethos and pathos; pathos probably more than the other two. The three concepts work together to catch the attention of the audience listening and feel like there is something they could do to help the situations the Black Eyed Peas sing about. Using logic, credibility and emotion this song was successful in the way that it definitely caught the attention of many people around the world after it was placed in the top 10 hits list. Music is a very important part of people’s lives. It always has been something that makes people feel some sort of emotion when listening to whatever type of music it may be and the lyrics also play a big role in that, too. I think this song did a great job in each of the areas of logos, ethos and pathos and will definitely be a memorable song for years to come. Hopefully, more and more people will hear it and start to realize that if people work together things could be accomplished. After all, “we only got one world.”


"Part 1" of the Norton Field Guide to Writing covers the concept of "Rhetorical Situations" (1-17).

Whenever we write, whether it's an email to a friend or a toast for a wedding, an English essay or a résumé, we face some kind of rhetorical situation. We have a purpose, a certain audience, a particular stance, a genre, and a medium to consider--and often as not a design. All are important elements that we need to think about carefully. (1)

This concept is usually covered in English 101, and you can review "Part 1" if you need to refresh your understanding. In what follows below, we're going to cover what are called the "three rhetorical appeals." 

What is Rhetoric?

Before we can understand the ways in which the rhetorical appeals work, we must first understand what rhetoric is.


There are many commonly-used definitions, but for our purposes "rhetoric" refers to all of the following:

  • The art of persuasion, and
  • The study of the art of persuasion, and
  • An individual act of persuasion.

In the work we'll do in our rhetorical analysis, there are 2 parties to be concerned with:

  1. The rhetor: the party that is attempting to persuade, and
  2. The audience: the party that is the target of persuasion.

We will consider ourselves to be a 3rd party: the observer. We're not being persuaded. We're not persuading. We're just observing the interaction between the rhetor and the audience.

Example A woman pulls her car up to the Starbucks drive-through, and before she can even order her large cup of coffee, the voice on the other end of the speaker says, "Thank you for choosing Starbucks! May I interest you in a low-fat apple-banana bran muffin this morning, paired with a tall skinny soy latte?" Who is the rhetor in this situation? It's the Starbucks employee, because that's the person trying to persuade someone. Who is the audience? It's the woman in the car, because she's the person the rhetor is trying to persuade. What is the act of persuasion taking place? The Starbucks employee is attempting to persuade the woman to buy a muffin and a pricey coffee drink. What would a rhetorical analysis of this situation be like? An observer--such as yourself--would consider the rhetor, the audience, and the rhetoric that is being used by the rhetor in an attempt to persuade the audience. The observer would analyze the rhetoric--in this case, using the framework of the three rhetorical appeals (explained below)--and then explain their analysis in an essay. Has the rhetor made effective use of rhetoric in trying to persuade the audience? Why or why not?

Mistakes to avoid It's important for you to remember that rhetorical analysis requires you, the observer, to refrain from being a part in what's going on between the rhetor and the audience. You are the silent third party. It is not your job to decide if you are persuaded by the rhetor. Instead, it's your job to decide if the audience would be persuaded by the rhetor. Sometimes you have a very specific idea of who the audience is, but sometimes you just have a very general idea.

Three Rhetorical Appeals

"Of the [modes of persuasion] provided through speech there are three species: for some are in the character of the speaker, and some are in disposing the listener in some way, and some in the argument itself, by showing or seeming to show something" --Aristotle, On Rhetoric, 1356b (trans. George A. Kennedy)

In other words, Aristotle argues that there are three elements to the art of persuasion:

  • ethos: The rhetor is perceived by the audience as credible (or not).
  • pathos: The rhetor attempts to persuade the audience by making them feel certain emotions.
  • logos: The rhetor attempts to persuade the audience by the use of arguments that they will perceive as logical.

We call these three elements rhetorical appeals. It's not necessary for every act of persuasion to make use of all three appeals. Often, however, there is some element of each. In academic writing, ethos and logos are given more respect than pathos. An essay that relies primarily on pathos, with little use of ethos or logos, is unlikely to be perceived by an academic audience as persuasive. Below, each of these appeals is explained in more detail.


The use of ethos is called an "ethical appeal." Note that this is very different from our usual understanding of the word "ethical." "Ethos" is used to describe the audience's perception of the rhetor's credibility or authority. The audience asks themselves, "What does this person know about this topic?" and "Why should I trust this person?" There are two kinds of ethos:

  • extrinsic (the character, expertise, education, and experience of the rhetor), and
  • instrinsic (how the rhetor writes or speaks).

When we discuss the ethos of the rhetor, we decide whether it is strong or weak. We might use a phrase like, "His extrinsic ethos is strong because…" or "His intrinsic ethos is strong, but his extrinsic ethos is weak…"

Examples of extrinsic ethos:Sports: If you are a successful professional basketball player--like Michael Jordan, for example--talking about basketball to other pro athletes, then your ethos is strong with that particular audience even before you open your mouth or take pen to paper. Your audience assumes you are knowledgable about your subject because of your experience. Now, if you are instead a baseball player talking about basketball, then your extrinsic ethos is not as strong because you haven't been played pro basketball, but you're still a professional athlete and know something about that kind of life. However, if you are a college professor of English, then your extrinsic ethos is likely to be pretty weak with your audience. They might just assume that you know nothing about basketball or about professional sports. Change your audience around, however, and the ethos of each hypothetical rhetor might change. An audience of pre-school kids, for example, would have no idea who Michael Jordan is, and so his extrinsic ethos would be weaker with that audience than with the audience of other pro athletes.

Examples of intrinsic ethos:Sports: Let's say you're that professional basketball player mentioned above, and you start to address your audience when suddenly you stutter and mumble, you use the wrong sports terminology (or you mispronounce that terminology), and you stare at your shoes the entire time you're talking. Suddenly your overall ethos takes a nose-dive with your audience, and you become less persuasive. They conclude that regardless of your experience, the way you're expressing yourself reveals that you are not someone to be taken seriously. At the other extreme, let's say you're that hypothetical English professor, and you speak with confidence and use all of the correct sports-based terminology. You look around at the faces of your audience as you speak and project your voice to the back of the room. Your overall ethos, which was weak to begin with because the audience was skeptical of what an English professor would know about their sport, suddenly gets stronger. It gets stronger because your intrinsic ethos goes up in the eyes of your audience. The way that a rhetor speaks or writes will also affect ethos. Intrinsic ethos is strong when the rhetor expresses himself or herself confidently and intelligently, using language that is appropriate for the audience.

Mistakes to avoid First, you should always remember that when you are engaged in rhetorical analysis, it's not your job to decide if you perceive the rhetor as credible or authoritative. Instead, you must evaluate how the audience is likely to perceive the rhetor. Second, do not confuse the strategy of "Testimony and Authority" (see below, under "Logos") with ethos. When a rhetor uses information from someone else as a source to support their argument, that's an example of logos: it's the strategy of "Testimony and Authority." Students sometimes confuse the two because in both cases, the credibility and authority of the person speaking (or writing) is important. However, there's an important difference. When the rhetor is known by the audience to be experienced and an expert on the topic, their extrinsic ethos is strong. When the rhetor cites someone else who is experienced and an expert, that's an example of logos, because the rhetor is using the strategy of testimony and authority.


The use of pathos is called a "pathetic appeal." Note that this is very different from our usual understanding of the word "pathetic." "Pathos" is used to describe the rhetor's attempt to appeal to "an audience's sense of identity, their self-interest, and their emotions." If the rhetor can create a common sense of identity with their audience, then the rhetor is using a pathetic appeal. So if that college English professor above mentions having played basketball in high school and convinces the audience that she or he was pretty good, then not only does that fact strengthen the rhetor's ethos, it also makes a pathetic appeal. (This is also why so many politicans will open their speeches with "My fellow Americans..." This is why many of them use the phrase "My friends..." so much when speaking to audiences.) "Pathos" most often refers to an attempt to engage an audience's emotions. Think about the different emotions people are capable of feeling: they include love, pity, sorrow, affection, anger, fear, greed, lust, and hatred. If a rhetor tries to make an audience feel emotions in response to what is being said or written, then they are using pathos.

Example Let's say a rhetor is trying to convince an audience of middle-class Americans to donate money to a hurricane relief fund. The rhetor can make pathetic appeals to an audience's feelings of love, pity, fear, and perhaps anger. (The extent to which any of these emotions will be successfully engaged will vary from audience to audience.)

    • "Love" will be felt if the audience can be made to believe in their fundamental connections to other human beings.
    • "Pity" will be felt if the plight of the homeless hurricane victim can be made very vivid to the audience.
    • "Fear" will be felt if the audience can be made to imagine what they would feel like in that homeless victim's place.
    • "Anger" will be felt if the audience realizes how little has been done by those who are resonsible for helping.
    If the rhetor works all of these things together properly (and also doesn't screw up ethos and logos), then the audience is more likely to be persuaded.

Mistakes to avoid The emotions we're talking about here are emotions that might be felt by the audience, not emotions felt by the rhetor. If a rhetor is clearly angry about the topic being addressed, for example, that should not be taken as a pathetic. However, if the rhetor is clearly trying to make the audience feel angry, then that should, in fact, be considered a pathetic appeal. And whether or not the audience does, in fact, feel the emotions in question, the observer can still recognize when the rhetor is using a pathetic appeal. Sometimes, the pathetic appeal is weak (meaning it probably won't succeed). Sometimes, the pathetic appeal is strong (meaning it probably will succeed).


The use of logos is called a "logical appeal." A statement does not have to be considered logical to be a logical appeal. As an observer, you can recognize that the rhetor is attempting to use logos to persuade the audience, but that recognition doesn't mean the rhetor is succeeding. We use the term logos to describe what kind of rhetorical appeal is being made, not to evaluate whether or not an appeal makes sense to us (as observers) or to the audience being addressed. "Logos" is the use of the strategies of logic to persuade your audience. If an statement attempts to persuade the audience by making a reasonable claim and offering proof in support of that claim (rather than by trying to make them feel certain emotions, or by making them perceive the speaker as credible), then that statement is a logical argument.

Mistakes to avoid When you are engaged in rhetorical analysis, you are an observer of the interaction between the rhetor and the audience. So it's not your job to decide whether or not an argument is logical. Instead, it's your job to decide whether or not an argument will be perceived by the audience as logical.

There are many ways of making logical arguments. Here are a few common strategies:

Cause or consequence

A claim about one thing causing another, or one thing being caused by another.

Example:Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases being produced by humankind.

 Example:The current economic crisis was caused primarily by deregulation of the financial industry.

Example:If the government gets involved in providing health insurance to the American people, we will see a sharp decline in the quality of our medical care.


A claim about the qualities of one thing using a comparison about another thing.

Example:The ozone layer of the atmosphere is like the outer layer of skin on the human body, and if it goes away, planet Earth will be in a lot of pain.Going to that class is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Example:"George Bush taking credit for the Berlin Wall coming down is like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise." (Al Gore,1992 Vice Presidential Debate)

Example:That candidate is what we call a post turtle. Imagine you're driving along a country road and you see a turtle up on top of a fence post. He doesn't know how he got there. He doesn't know what he's doing there. And he has no idea what to do next. (Seethis entryat Snopes.com)

Testimony and authority

A claim that involves citing the opinion of someone other than the rhetor, someone respected by the audience.

Example: 4 out of 5 Dentists surveyed would recommend sugarless gum to their patients who chew gum (Trident Gumadvertisement).

Example:The leading U.S. military commanders in Iraq say the surge strategy is working.

Example:How bad is the current financial mess? According to Alan Greenspan, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman, it's "the type of wrenching financial crisis that comes along only once in a century"("Greenspan").


A claim about the meaning or nature of something.

Example: The president is a socialist.

Example: Marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

Example: Last year's Super Bowl game was extremely boring


A claim using deductive logic involving a major premise, a minor premise, and conclusion. This is a move from the general to the specific.

Example: Nuclear power plants generate dangerous nuclear waste, the new power plant they're planning to build in our community is a nuclear power plant. So the new power plant will be dangerous.

Example: Republicans favor deregulation. John McCain is a Republican, so he will pursue a policy of deregulation if elected.

Example: Democrats like to "tax and spend." Barack Obama is a Democrat, so he's going to raise our taxes if elected.

Support a generalization with examples

A claim using inductive logic, where a general statement about something is backed up by specific examples.

Example: In thesecond presidential debateof 2008, Senator John McCain emphasized his own good judgment in this way: "And I am convinced that my record, going back to my opposition from sending the Marines to Lebanon, to supporting our efforts in Kosovo and Bosnia and the first Gulf War, and my judgment, I think, is something that ... I'm willing to stand on."

Example: In the second presidentail debate of 2008, Senator Barack Obama argued that the United States should maintain good relations with other nations in order to make the best use of our own military resources in a time of economic constraint. He then illustrated his general statement with this specific example: "Let's take the example of Darfur just for a moment. Right now there's a peacekeeping force that has been set up and we have African Union troops in Darfur to stop a genocide that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. We could be providing logistical support, setting up a no-fly zone at relatively little cost to us, but we can only do it if we can help mobilize the international community and lead."

Combining all 3 rhetorical appeals

Seldom is any one statement an example of only one appeal.

"I have to tell you that if you don't stop smoking, you're going to die, " said the doctor to her patient.

This statement combines all three appeals:

  • Extrinsic ethos: the rhetor--a doctor--is an expert on the subject
  • Pathos: attempting to make the audience feel fear
  • Logos: using the strategy of "Cause or Consequence"


Let's review what we covered above: Rhetoric is defined for our purposes as

  • The art of persuasion, and
  • The study of the art of persuasion, and
  • An individual act of persuasion.

In the work we'll do in our rhetorical analysis, there are 2 parties to be concerned with:

  1. The rhetor: the party that is attempting to persuade, and
  2. The audience: the party that is the target of persuasion.

We will consider ourselves to be a 3rd party: The observer. We're not being persuaded. We're not persuading. We're just observing the interaction between the rhetor and the audience. The rhetorical appeals are the three elements to the art of persuasion as defined by Aristotle

  • ethos: The rhetor is perceived by the audience as credible (or not).
  • pathos: The rhetor attempts to persuade the audience by making them feel certain emotions.
  • logos: The rhetor attempts to persuade the audience by the use of arguments that they will perceive as logical.

Remember, it's not necessary for every act of persuasion to make use of all three appeals. Often, however, there is some element of each. In academic writing, ethos and logos are given more respect than pathos. An essay that relies primarily on pathos, with little use of ethos or logos, is unlikely to be perceived by an academic audience as persuasive.


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