Ethos Examples in Literature

Definition of Ethos

Ethos is the credibility of a speaker or writer. It refers to the trustworthiness and character that an audience perceives in someone presenting an argument. An effective persuasive argument relies partly on the degree to which an audience finds the communicator to have ethos or not. Establishing strong ethos involves displaying knowledge, wisdom, empathy, authenticity and other virtues that earn an audience’s confidence in the speaker’s views. Ethos is constructed through reputation as well as choices in language, style and content made when addressing a specific audience.

function of ethos in writing

Ethos builds trust between a writer and reader. It convinces an audience that the writer is credible and worth listening to. Establishing strong ethos gives writing authority and powers of persuasion. Writers develop ethos by demonstrating honesty, wisdom, expertise on a topic, goodwill to the audience and logical reasoning. Choices in tone, diction, evidence and careful argument shape an ethical appeal. An essay grounded in strong ethos comes across as fair, informed and written for readers’ benefit. An untrustworthy writer who shows narrow thinking or ill intentions will struggle to persuade. Building proper ethos brings rhetorical credibility and influence.

Ethos Examples in literature


“Ms. Williams in The Education Solution” by Sara Thomas

“As an experienced teacher who cares deeply about the education of our youth, I believe that we need to reform the school curriculum to better prepare students for the future.”

The speaker creates a powerful ethical appeal by presenting herself as a dedicated and highly qualified teacher who takes care of her students. In particular, she uses her educator identity of an individual who “cares deeply about the education our youth” to show compassion and values that appeal to viewers demanding perfect nurturing for children. This builds character ethos. Furthermore, pointing out that she is a knowledgeable teacher provides her arguments with authority – audiences are more willing to believe reform propositions if the speaker has given evidence of credentials in education. The quote dually appeals to the speaker’s moral sense and knowledge base as it mentions both compassion towards students and insider experience, which frames her as a credible voice for curriculum reform on how bettering preparing of future will be achieved. Such use of ethos makes this call more persuasive by depicting an authority figure with insight into preexisting problems along with


“Prime Minister Reed in The Road to Peace” by David Johnson

“As a leader who has seen the ravages of war first-hand, I cannot support any conflict that brings harm to innocent people and diplomacy remains untried.”

The speaker creates first-hand knowledge about the horrors of war. This gives them credibility based on having personally experienced war’s impacts. It makes their anti-war arguments seem genuine. The speaker also says they try diplomacy first rather than backing conflicts that harm innocents. This paints them as a thoughtful leader with principles. The quote and their views portray a leader who avoids conflict and protects innocents. Audiences are likely to find this persuasive. By establishing their moral character and painful learning about war’s costs, the quote builds credibility for the speaker to discuss issues of conflict and war. This makes audiences seriously consider their anti-war views.


“Dr. Roberts in The Cure” by John Smith

“As a doctor with over 20 years of experience, I have dedicated my career to preserving life and promoting health. My duty is to use my expertise to care for my patients.”

The excerpt creates a solid ethical appeal via highlighting the speaker’s advanced experience and devotion to medical ethics as a doctor. In particular, it highlights “over 20 years” of experience to establish the speaker as deeply knowledgeable in health and medicine. Such longevity makes them worthy of audiences’ trust. Besides, saying that they have “dedicated” their career to the protection of life and promotion of health is characteristic values-based devotion towards patients’ wellness. This creates a character ethos because the speaker is shown not to be self-serving but genuinely caring. Lastly, pointing to their “duty” of providing care shows such appeal towards medical principles as beneficence – doing only good things for people entrusted in one’s treatment. The quote is the encouraging audience to recognize a speaker as an authoritative figure has ethical duties toward use of expertise for patients; thus, audiences see them as reliable and wise adviser. Their medical experience and dedication to doing the right thing by patients give weight to their statements. This creates an appropriate ethos informed by moral values and established competence.


“Character A in The Importance of Dialogue” by Jane Doe

“While I disagree with your political views, I believe strongly that freedom of speech is a fundamental right and must be protected.”

The above line demonstrates the use of ethos by portraying the speaker as having strong moral principles and integrity. Specifically, it establishes the speaker’s ethical appeal in two ways, i.e. firstly, it shows the speaker respects opposing political views enough to disagree civilly while still defending free speech rights. This willingness to extend rights to those they disagree with builds character credibility by showing wisdom and consistency in upholding democratic values. Secondly, by staunchly arguing that freedom of speech is a fundamental right requiring protection, the speaker indicates commitment to enlightened, classically liberal ethical principles. Audiences tend to find such morally-driven advocacy of free expression admirable.


“Dr. Hanson in Call to Action” by Jane Kramer

“As an environmental scientist who has studied climate change for over 30 years, the data clearly shows the significant impact human activity has had on increasing global temperatures.”

The excerpt introduces the speaker’s authority on anthropogenic climate change. He demonstrates them as an experienced researcher in this field due to the fact that he emphasizes more than 30 years of his background. Moreover, “the data clearly demonstrates” gives an objective and factual perception rather than ideology. By connoting the speaker as a consistent institutional leader not influenced by hype, this quote does so through long-term scientific analysis of climate data. This authority contributes when talking about the confidence as well as seriousness of anthropogenic increases in temperature. The audience will think that he or she is listening to an authoritative scientist, and they would buy into the verisimilitude of information. In general, their credentials and evidence-based approach establish credibility in climate change.


“Mr. Thompson in The Honorable Business” by Timothy Clark

“Having started from nothing, I worked hard to build this company while following ethical business practices – I would never expect my employees to engage in deceitful actions to increase profits.”

It reflects ethos because it depicts the speaker as an ethical and self-made business owner who practices what he preaches. Particularly, it highlights how the speaker created this company “from nothing” due to hard work and shows remarkable abilities such as diligence and independence. This gives a blue-collar cachet. Additionally, when one states that they increased the business with these moral “business practices,” it demonstrates a quality where gains did not excuse wrongful actions. This creates a large amount of character ethos — people admire leaders more when they reject corruption for ethics. 


“Senator Patel in The Fight for Reform” by Jack Corner

“As a mother myself who came from a working-class background, I understand the daily economic struggles facing many families just to make ends meet.”

It exhibits ethos by showing how the speaker is familiar with financial struggles. Specifically, it establishes the speaker’s credibility and ability to relate to working-class economic struggles in the following ways, i.e. If the speaker refers to herself as a mother, she claims an instinctive understanding and care towards families passing through difficult times. This caring environment increases vulnerability. Speaking about her roots as working-class people makes a common basis with the population under consideration. This, however, reflects genuine- she is aware of these battles rather than an address from a point advantage.

The speaker’s references to her motherhood and personal history of living check-to-check provide a powerful ethos that is hard. Her characterization, therefore, reveals her silliness of understanding and supporting to reduce economic strains for other families plagued by scarcity nowadays. This persuasive positioning has even a critical audience ponder her arguments carefully.

ethos examples in literature
ethos examples in literature

Related Terms with Ethos


Pathos refers to appealing to the audience’s emotions in order to persuade them. While ethos establishes credibility, pathos moves the audience through emotive language, imagery, and expressions that generate feelings like fear, sadness, anger, disgust etc. An example of using pathos would be showing images of suffering children when making an appeal for charity donations.


Logos means persuading through logic and reason. Using logos means using facts, statistics, logical explanations, and rational arguments to convince the audience. Whereas ethos relies on expertise and character, logos relies on having truthful, logical evidence. An example is citing crime statistics when making the case to increase law enforcement budgets.

The key difference between the terms is that ethos focuses on credibility, pathos on emotion, and logos on facts and logical reasoning. But all three terms refer to different rhetorical devices used to persuade and influence an audience regarding a claim or argument. They generally work together to make a fully convincing case, through credibility, emotions, and rational explanations.

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