Barbara Lazear Ascher Essay On Compassion

434 Words2 Pages
In Barbara Lazear Ascher’s essay titled “On Compassion” Ascher considers the concept of compassion by utilizing her own encounters with the homeless as a vehicle to make her argument. In her argument, she interprets compassion as an abstract concept, and portrays empathy as a building block to compassion; making the argument that to be a more tolerant society one must first learn empathy in order to demonstrate true compassion. When analyzing Ascher’s rhetoric, her style, diction and rhetorical devices reveal a skeptical tone and serve a greater purpose in appealing to the reader’s sense of ethos and pathos. Namely, Ascher’s use of first-person narrative and word choice like “we” appeals to the reader’s sense of ethos, which eventually builds…show more content…
In preceding paragraphs Ascher describes her encounters with compassion and the homeless as if she is omnipresent, overlooking these events. For example, she never admits to witnessing the first scene she describes. She does not describe observing the homeless man’s grin herself by using words like “I” in order to say “I saw his grin”; instead she states it matter-of-factly: “the man’s grin”. From her initial reluctance to associate herself with what will later be support for her argument, Ascher conveys her uncertainty at this point in the essay. In the proceeding paragraphs Ascher finally gives up the omnipotent charade in order to appeal to her audience’s sense of ethos. The audience trusts her as a narrator at this point because she is no longer an abstract figure and becomes a relatable person by using “I” and “we.” This transition immediately follows her first example of rhetorical question. This question: “Was it fear or compassion that that motivated the gift?” acts as an epiphany for Ascher. Her argument is confirmed and she stands by it at this point in the essay, she confidently unites herself with her argument by adding “I” and “we” to her anecdotes following this rhetorical
Open Document