How to Use Pathos in Literature

What is Pathos

Ethos, pathos and logos are modes of persuasion that are used to convince audiences. Ethos is an appeal to ethics whereas logos is an appeal to logic. Pathos is an appeal to emotion – this is a technique used by speakers/writers to convince an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response. Thus, many authors use pathos in literature to stir up the emotions of the readers. Here, let’s learn how to use Pathos in literature.

How to Use Pathos in Literature

As explained above, pathos is a popular persuasion method used by authors to connect with readers on an emotional level. Pathos can stir up a variety of emotions such as pity, sympathy, sorrow as well as anger. This emotional connection may be far stronger than logic or reason. The writer can use pathos even when he doesn’t have concrete evidence to support his claims and arguments. Pathos can be extremely useful since it can manipulate the readers using their deep emotions.

In literature, it is easier to recognize pathos in dramas because characters may directly appeal to the emotions of other characters, and indirectly to the audience. However, almost every work of literature contains some elements of ethos.

Examples of Pathos in Literature

“For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.”

Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” narrates the sad tale of a young man who has lost his love. He uses a variety of emotions like love, joy, grief, pity to appeal to his readers.

Let’s look at another example:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; 
Or close the wall up with our English dead. 
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man 
As modest stillness and humility: …….
…Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, 
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit 
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English. 
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof! 
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders, 
Have in these parts from morn till even fought 
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument: 
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest 
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you….”

How to Use Pathos in Literature

The above excerpt is taken from William Shakespeare’s play Henry V. Here, the king is giving a  motivating speech to his army. Henry appeals to the emotions of the soldiers in this speech, not to their logical or reasoning skills. The speech encourages the army to take fight well and besiege the city of Harfleur.


  • Pathos is an appeal to emotions. 
  • Pathos is used by authors to forge an emotional connection to the readers.
  • Pathos can be used in one character’s dialogues to the others or directly from the character or narrator to the readers. 

Image Courtesy:

By Thomas Robinson (printmaker) – Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection (CC BY-SA 4.0) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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