Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Lesson Plan Reference
Grade Level 6-12
Difficulty Level 5 (Advanced / Mastery)
Type of Assignment Individual or Partner
Type of Activity: The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, LogosCommon Core Standards
- [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts
- [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/4] Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone)
- [ELA-Literacy/RI/8/8] Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.
- [ELA-Literacy/RI/9-10/8] Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
Douglass’s narrative is more than an interesting account of his difficult life. Written two decades before slavery was outlawed, the narrative was intended as a powerful argument against slavery. In making this argument, Douglass employs a number of effective rhetorical devices, including the appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos. Storyboarding can help students concretely identify examples of these and demonstrate understanding not only of Douglass’s argument, but also of the craftsmanship behind the argument. For this three-square storyboard, have students identify and depict an example of each of the three Aristotelian components of rhetoric. Below each depiction, they should explain their reasoning and/or include other written examples as space allows.
Ethos, Pathos, Logos in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Douglass makes a convincing argument due to his well-written, logical account. He uses sophisticated vocabulary along with specific, verifiable names and geographic locations. He writes fairly and gives credit where it is due in order to avoid accusations of unjust bias.
Douglass describes the cruel beatings slaves received in vivid detail. His eloquent language inspires pity in the reader. His accounts are most powerful when he describes witnessing the abuse of others as a terrified child. He writes, "No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose...I was quite a child, but I remember it. I shall never forget it whilst I remember anything."
Douglass's narrative begins with a preface by well-known abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and a letter from abolitionist Wendell Phillips. These respected men act as witnesses, testifying to Douglass's good character. Douglass also builds his credibility by refusing to believe in superstitions and depicting himself as a hard-working, intelligent, church-going Christian.