Critical Essay on Ethos in Three Texts essay

Ethos comes from the Greek word for “character” and in rhetoric it means credibility and trustworthiness of the text or another artifact. Together with pathos and logos, ethos refers to persuasive strategies. In order to lend credibility to a text, ethos should be established from the very beginning. An author should explain why the reader should trust him or her. By another interpretation, ethos is established long before the speech, or text, is read. It means that if a doctor recommends treatment to a patient, the ethos of doctor’s words influences the patient who believes that the doctor has qualifications and is licensed and certified and as a result of this knowledge the patient agrees to the treatment. A person’s reputation lends credibility to his or her words and thus establishes ethos for later speeches and texts. It means that in order to be persuasive an author should have some expertise in the subject and somehow let the audience know about it. The present paper intends to consider the definitions of ethos, persona, motive, and tone on the example of the three artifacts such as the book Wisdom of the Buddha and two movies The Big Lebowski and Wag the Dog.

Another manifestation of ethos in a literary text or film can be a notion of persona. In fiction, authors make up different personas that transmit their ideas. For example, the Coen brothers picked a persona of an apathetic and pacifistic guy called the Dude for their movie The Big Lebowski. The ultimate calmness and a reluctance to be involved into the pursuit of materialistic values may reflect the directors’ own inner desires and inclinations. Sometimes the author and the persona he or she depicts in a text are the same. The author’s experience allows him to write about it thus lending credibility to his writing. Such is the case with Wisdom of the Buddha translated and edited by Max Mueller. The book is believed to be the writings of the Buddha and the persona he exhibits in order to convey his wisdom and knowledge of the world is not assumed as a mask. Rather, it is the Buddha’s real personal qualities developed throughout his life. Another case of ethos and persona is when an author talks about a particular subject and the audience believes his or her ethical claim and the assumed persona because the story is plausible and true to life. For example, the movie Wag the Dog explores the cynicism of the media and politics and the viewer believes the persona of Robert De Niro’s character who is shrewd and practical in the matters of settling President’s problems with any means.

Authors usually convey their attitude towards their texts through tone. Seeing the choice of words and the manner in which the author tells the story the audience knows how to react and how perceive the story. For example, Wisdom of the Buddha is a spiritual text and there is no place for light-weight jokes. The tone is serious and thought-provoking. The reader wants to find out something about the meaning of life and other important matters. The author talks about sin, righteousness, and how to avoid wrongdoings. In contrast, The Big Lebowski is told in a cheerful, comic tone. The protagonist does not care much about anything apart from his daily training in bowling and his daily dose of alcohol. The tone is light, with humor, and a lot of cursing. Wag the Dog has a sarcastic tone. The movie is a black comedy and satire on the American political life. And the light tone offers the audience an opportunity to take a good laugh at oneselves because while everyone believes he or she is not that gullible and is able to see through the political schemes, it turns out that it is not so.

Authors usually have an ulterior motive as a reason why they wrote the text or made a movie. The Coen brothers’ motive to make The Big Lebowski is to oppose the oppressive system of Hollywood and modern consumerism and materialism by presenting a character absolutely distanced from these carnal desires. Besides, back then the movie was very different from the usual produce of Hollywood in terms of being very anti-materialistic and laidback. So The Coens’ motive could be to make a film unlike many others at the market. In the similar vein, Wisdom of the Buddha is also an anti-materialistic text. It offers a refreshing change from common people’s worries and distress. The author’s motive is to share his wisdom and knowledge and to help people find rest and calmness from the worries of the world. The motive of the producers of Wag the Dog’s is to burst open the cynicism of the political area and the show business world and to show people that reality is constructed by other people. Again, the motive behind the movie is to show truth, even if in an exaggerated and sarcastic way.

One of the primal aspects that manifest ethos is language. It should be appropriate to the audience and the subject featuring restrained, sincere, and fair-minded presentation, and an appropriate level of vocabulary, as well as correct grammar. The effect from ethos will be the demonstration of the author’s reliability, competence, and respect for the audience’s ideas and values through reliable and appropriate use of support and general accuracy. To this effect, Wisdom of the Buddha clearly exhibits its respect to the reader through a careful choice of words, correct grammar, and appropriate vocabulary. There is no slang, no colloquial words, and the language of the book demonstrates the author’s reliability. In contrast, The Big Lebowski also proves its credibility but it is done in the directors’ ability to portray an ultimately slack character who cares about nothing. Therefore, the Dude does not need perfect grammar and the usual competence and efficiency. His competence is proved by his drawl and unhurriedness. Saying slowly something like “Yeah well, that’s just, ya know, like, your opinion, man” to a guy who bugged him the Dude reveals his peaceful nature and the fact that nothing can work him up. Thus, the character of the Dude is a means of persuasion in the directors’ ethos and competence in the subject of purposeless existence.

Critical thinking is a useful skill for any intelligent person. And what is great about it that it can be self-practiced. A person develops his or her critical thinking by carefully examining information and assessing its components and purposes. Understanding of all the parts of rhetoric is important for critical thinking too because it helps understanding how arguments are pulled together and makes it possible to construct one’s own arguments more effectively.  Understanding the role of ethos helps the author make his or her literary work more effective. In particular, ethos from the very beginning either establishes the author’s trustworthiness or not and it determines the text’s success with the reader. Realizing what the audience is and what heft he or she is able to offer, the author is able to lend credibility to his or her writing. Without additional information on the author, the reader may be reluctant to believe the arguments. What if the author knows little about the topic or is wrong in reasoning? Therefore, it is important to understand ethos in order to be a critical thinker. Additionally, it is to the author’s benefit to establish rapport with the reader by outlining his or her experience or credentials in the field and subject.

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Critical Essay on Ethos in Three Texts essay

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