Pathos, Ethos, Logos: Thoreau’s Attempts at Persuasion to Action

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Pathos, Ethos, Logos: Thoreau’s Attempts at Persuasion to Action
Henry David Thoreau was a poet, social philosopher, and educator in the early to mid- 1800s (Hampton). He graduated from Harvard University in 1837 and, upon his return to his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, befriended Ralph Waldo Emerson, also a philosopher and poet (Hampton, “Ralph Waldo Emerson”). Emerson was also the leader of the Transcendentalist movement which was based on the idea that people should lead by example -- social reform begins with the individual, not the government -- and that the movement should be peaceful (Woodlief, Ruehl). Thoreau agreed with this approach until the United States invaded Mexico in May, 1846 (Brown, Witherell). Opposed to slavery,
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A few lines later he claims that legislators and other men in service to the government are also nothing but tools for the government who are used to “serve the state with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, that are likely to serve the devil” (Thoreau, par 5). In both of these cases he attempts to generate pity and or anger toward the servicemen and politicians. If his target audience is also servicemen and the politicians, his goal probably might have been to shame them or anger them into no longer supporting the government’s cause.
He states that the government should not operate under what is good for the majority but should also consider and morally act upon what is good for the minority:
Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men….think they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them…that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse…..Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Thoreau, paragraph

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