Strength of Argument: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
bell hooks’s essay, "Keeping Close to Home", uses three important components of argument (ethos, pathos, and logos) to support her claim. hooks develops her essay by establishing credibility with her audience, appealing to the reader’s logic, and stirring their emotions. She questions the role a university should play in the life of a nation, claiming that higher education should not tear a student away from his roots, but help him to build an education upon his background.
bell hooks gains the trust and credibility of readers through knowledge of the topic at hand, establishing common ground with the audience, and demonstrating fairness. Ethos
is the distinguishing moral character of a writer that instills faith in the audience. bell hooks is a well respected writer and teacher known for her strong opinion and academic background. She establishes her credentials through her personal struggles with the university system and her efforts to maintain her own individuality and background. The reader gains respect for hooks as she courageously resists the pressure to adapt to her new academic life. For` example she says, "It [is] my responsibility to formulate a way of being that [will] allow me to participate fully in my new environment while integrating and maintaining aspects of the old" (hooks 92). bell hooks writes not only to help others find strength to hold on to their pasts, but for her own resistance as well. Her audience is assured by her motives to educate and inform.
Whereas hooks’s personal experience srenghtens her ethos, a certain rigidity used in addressing the audience simultaneously weakens her credibilty. For example, hooks’s tendency to label academics and groups unlike herself pushes the reader to see her as self-righteous. She separates people into classes of those she percieves as right and those she sees as wrong. Thus, she creates a smaller audience of readers and weakens her message. This tendency causes her argument to sound one-sided and prevents a formation of common ground. hooks’s efforts to help others preserve the background that "enable[s] one’s self development in the present, that sustain[s] and support[s], that enrich[s]" however, prevents her voice and opinions from being ignored (91).
bell hooks’s use of logical evidence is not as strong as her ethos. With the aid of facts and studies, an author’s logos
is strengthened, and the audience is able logically to follow his or her thoughts, and perhaps come to agree with the claim made. hooks traces the causes of a separation from one’s roots to lay the ground work for her argument. The majority of her examples attacking the academic world are based upon her interpretations of past experiences, and not on facts or statistics. Despite hooks’s many references to her personal experiences and views, she only cites one study (All Our Kin) to help support her claim. While the reader may understand hooks’s reasoning, her essay is not as strong without the support of others’ opinions and studies.
Through her emotional appeal, bell hooks helps the reader to reach a deeper understanding of her argument. hooks relates to her audience in a warm, inviting tone that echoes the sounds of her roots. Her pathos
successfully appeals to the heart as well as the mind. hooks finds power through expressing her emotional battles between her background and the academic class. She writes, "To a southern black girl from a working-class background who had never been on a city bus, who had never stepped on an escalator, who had never traveled by plane, leaving the comfortable confines of a small town Kentucky life to attend Stanford University was not just frightening; it was utterly painful" (hooks 87). Her fight for a bridge between these two worlds inspires others to follow her path and take notice of her advice. hooks’s pathos describes her pains, fears, and triumphs, and allows her readers to relate to her experiences.
bell hooks uses techniques to invite the audience she feels is excluded from works aimed at an educated group. By addressing her audience with such inviting terms as "folks," hooks incorporates her writing and her past effectively to open the restricted academic world. Another example of hooks’s methods to include uneducated, lower class readers is her elimination of footnotes from her published literature. She states, "I [tell] people that my concern [is] that footnotes set class boundaries for readers, determining who a book is for" (hooks 93).
bell hooks speaks deeply about her love for her family and her desire to preserve their influence upon her life. Her writing is effective because it makes her audience think and absorb the information. Despite the class a reader may identify with, bell hooks’s writing invites all to question their actions to preserve their own background. By using ethos, pathos and logos, hooks allows her readers to gain trust in her information, and logically to follow the information provided, as well as feeling their hearts move in reaction to her pain and triumph.