Ethos In The Great Debaters

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Martin Luther King Jr., an African-American activist, once said, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” In the Jim Crow South in the 1930s, the setting of the film The Great Debaters, directed by Denzel Washington in 2007, King’s words were particularly relevant. James Farmer Jr., the main character of the film, argues King’s point in the final debate about civil disobedience between Harvard and Wiley College. Although the Wiley debaters rely effectively on the strategy of ethos, the keys to their victory are the strategies pathos and logos. Wiley College relies greatly on ethos throughout the debate against Harvard, although this was not what gets …show more content…

Samantha used pathos in response to the first Harvard Debater who proceeded to talk about how civil disobedience isn 't moral just because it happens to be nonviolent. He continues to talk about how violence can be moral to a certain extent such as in protecting your country. Samantha believes otherwise, as she again uses Gandhi to support the logic behind her point of view. As she says, “Gandhi believes one must always act with love and respect for one’s opponents” (Washington) as Samantha continues with a joke saying, “even if they are Harvard debaters” (Washington). By using a joke Samantha gains the crowd 's attention and they start to like her a bit more, also using words like love and respects towards others over blood and violence. Again, Samantha uses pathos towards the second Harvard debater speaking once again about how what the majority decides is moral, she quickly comes back using “we” (Washington) as in herself and the surrounding people shouldn 't have “kneel down” (Washington) to the “tranny of a majority” (Washington). She is telling the others that they have the power to do what they believe in, they should never settle for the decisions of a majority. Lastly, James Farmer Jr. is responding to the second Harvard debater as he speaks about how you cannot just pick and choose which laws you want to follow and which ones you do not. As an African-American debating at the biggest all white college, Harvard, he knows lynching is a very sensitive topic. Although James knows this he also knows this is the right thing to say to win the debate, as he continues he goes on about how coming to this debate his teammates and him, “saw a man strung up by his neck--and set on fire” (Washington). The crowd seemed shocked he had evidence from his own experience, he went through the fear of watching a human burn, and the people burning him receive no punishment for breaking the law, yet this Harvard debater is

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