In Flowers for Algernon (1959),the author Daniel Keyes argues that intellect doesn’t make up anyone’s identity. In this book, the main character, Charlie, undergoes an experimentative surgery to become more intelligent (he already has an IQ of 68) and it successfully works. Before Charlie, Algernon was the first animal test subject and this mouse showed dramatic improvements in its mental performance which lead to Charlie being chosen as the first human subject. Keyes uses pathos as a way to connect the reader to Charlie as he tries to rediscover who he is when he becomes smarter. In progress report 8 (each chapter is called progress report since this is technically Charlie’s diary), Charlie writes “But the deeper I get tangled up in this mass of dreams and memories, the more I realize that emotional problems can’t be solved as intellectual problems are”. Here, the author uses emotion to connect the reader to Charlie because Charlie starts having relationship problems with his friends which makes him unhappy. He thought that by being smarter, his problems would go away and that his life would get easier and the readers would feel bad for him and/or feel similar to him because even before the surgery, Charlie’s friends would treat him bad and make fun of him. This shows that the intended audience for this book is to younger people who have yet to discover their own identity, or have yet to discover themselves, and so they would be able to emotionally relate to this character. Keyes also uses Algernon’s death as a way to affect readers emotionally and to be able to sympathize even more with Charlie.
Keyes, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon. Harcourt Brace, 1966.
The Martian (2011) by Andy Weir is a sci-fi novel based around Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut who gets stranded on Mars and has to get back home to Earth. After accidentally being left stranded by his crew members when they left the planet, Mark has to overcome intense challenges to get back home. In this novel, Weir demonstrates that perseverance is what it took to get Mark home. He argues that if you don’t have perseverance, you will never be able to accomplish your task. The author uses the rhetorical appeal of pathos in his book in chapter 14 when the Hab (Mark’s base/home on Mars) accidentally explodes, causing his food supply to be destroyed as well. Then Mark’s suit rips, he gets trapped and realizes the situation he’s in and says “ I’ve got a few minutes before I run out of air and I’ll be damned if I spend them playing Mars’s little game”. Here, the readers can feel Mark’s pain because after everything, after being able to make contact with NASA after three months of isolation, after creating a food supply that can possibly last him four years, after somewhat figuring out a plan to get him back home to Earth, his dreams are all crushed because of this explosion. Either way, Mark’s perseverance allows him to keep on going because after this he figures out a way to overcome yet another challenge in repairing the Hab and coming up with another plan for him to get back home. Because of the perseverance shown by Mark to the readers, it is clear Weir targets mainly young people with his argument, showing that if you don’t have perseverance, you won’t be able to accomplish your goals.
Weir, Andy. The Martian. Ebury Digital, 2016.
In The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins, the main character, Katniss volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in a kill-to-survive competition set up by her government. Throughout the novel, Collins argues that sacrifices must be made to accomplish your goals, to show that life has meaning. The author shows the final example of sacrifice in the end of the novel, when Katniss and her partner are the only ones left in the games and they decide to eat poisonous berries to go against the Capitol (the government in this novel). The author writes “I spread out my fingers, and the dark berries glisten in the sun. I give Peeta’s hand one last squeeze as a signal, as a good-bye, and we begin counting. “One.” Maybe I’m wrong. “Two.” Maybe they don’t care if we both die. “Three!” It’s too late to change my mind. I lift my hand to my mouth, taking one last look at the world. The berries have just passed my lips when the trumpets begin to blare”, and when the author writes this, she tries to make the readers sympathize with Katniss and her partner, because after everything they went through in the games, killing the other contestants and the sacrifice of an ally, they were ready to sacrifice their lives in opposition to the government. Using pathos as a rhetorical appeal, the author connects the reader to Katniss emotionally and establishes the idea that sacrifices are necessary to show that life actually has meaning.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2011.
In Divergent (2011) by Veronica Roth, the main character Tris lives in a futuristic/post-apocalyptic society that is divided into 5 different factions based on specific virtues. When Tris turns 16 and she is tested to see which faction she belongs to, she realizes she is “Divergent” meaning she doesn’t fit in with any specific faction (but a combination of them). Throughout the novel, the author tries to argue that someone’s identity isn’t so simple to figure out, since a big part of someone’s identity is trying to see where they fit in. Roth uses Tris as her main example, showing she belongs to 3 different factions (Abnegation, Erudite & Dauntless) and how she has to figure out who she is on her own, without the results of a test. Using pathos as a rhetorical appeal, Roth tries to make the reader sympathize with Tris because she hasn’t figured out who she is . Because of this, it could be inferred that Roth’s main audience is young people trying to figure out their own identity, as in, their own place in the world. This can also be from the fact that Tris is a 16 year old with issues about her true self. For example, when Roth writes “ I stare at my plate of food. I just grabbed what looked good to me at the time, and now that I take a closer look, I realize that I chose a plain chicken breast, a scoop of peas, and a piece of brown bread. Abnegation food ”, the readers can sympathize with Tris because while she does just tries to live her life, her “divergence” will follow her everywhere she goes which makes her question her identity within her society. Another example would be when Tris looks at herself in the mirror “ I step to the side so I stand in front of the mirror. I see muscles that I couldn’t see before in my arms, legs, and stomach. I pinch my side, where a layer of fat used to hint at curves to come. Nothing. Dauntless initiation has stolen whatever softness my body had. Is that good, or bad? ”. The readers can notice how she is conflicted about her new look, how she realizes this is a completely different girl than the one from the beginning of the book. Roth uses this to make the readers sympathize with Tris about their own identity, establishing the idea that someone’s identity isn’t a simple thing you can figure out.
Roth, Veronica. Divergent. Katherine Tegen Books, 2011.
In Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, the author argues that good things never come from manipulating others. This book follows the journey of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, who is a “third” child in a futuristic Earth with a two-child policy. From early on, Ender is put on a Battle School (a school that trains gifted kids to become commanders in their war against the ‘buggers’, which are an alien race), where he was admitted after a colonel saw Ender beat up a bully because he didn’t want the bully to escalate the problem even more, even though the bully dies due to his injuries. Ender excels at the Battle School which puts him in simulations against the buggers. The author demonstrates the horrible manipulation at the end of the book, when Ender defeats a simulation of a battle between his troops and the buggers, in which he sacrifices all his troops to destroy the alien’s homeworld. The author wrote “It had to be a trick or you couldn’t have done it ” after Ender was told that he in fact was not in a simulation, but that he was leading actual human spacecraft against actual alien troops, meaning he just committed mass genocide against a whole planet without him knowing. Here, the author connects the reader to Ender by trying to empathize the reader with the main character. Knowing he destroyed a whole alien race, Ender realizes he was manipulated the whole time which is why the colonel told him he had to be manipulated or he wouldn’t have done it. Because of this, it can be inferred that the intended audience are young people who don’t have a sense of who they are and that since they are young, they can be easily manipulated by other people which can cause chaos.
Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. Tor, 2017.
In The Maze Runner by James Dashner, the author argues that someone’s identity is very important. This book follows the journey of multiple children who are sent to the Glades, a maze with lethal creatures called grievers in it, who must find a way to escape the maze. Every month, an elevator in the glades brings the children food, supplies and a new kid with just their first name and this book centers around a kid named Thomas, who doesn’t remember who he is when he wakes up in the maze. Throughout the whole book, every character struggles to figure out who they are (what makes up their identity), which hinders their ability to focus on the task at hand (for example, in escaping the maze) and the character uses pathos as a way to sympathize the readers with character. Because of this lack of identity, the intended audience are younger people who don’t know who they are or what there place is in the world. The author demonstrates this in chapter 28 when he says “ Thomas was overwhelmed by a surge of anger. “Fine, so how do we do it? I want to know who I am just as much as anyone else. Obviously. […] Thomas paused, upset and suddenly embarrassed. What did it all mean? Was he different from everyone else somehow? Was something wrong with him?”. By saying this, the author makes Thomas feel embarrassed at showing the frustrations that he has with himself, which leaves him unable to complete the task in that chapter. The readers can connect to this because most young people let their emotions get the best of themselves, leaving them vulnerable. This is why Dashner argues that someone’s identity is important, and that although all the kids there have no idea who they are, they have to work together to accomplish their goals.
Dashner, James. The Maze Runner. Delacorte Press, 2009.