Ethos, Pathos, Logos-The Rhetorical Tactics

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The homeless shelter is places created to help people who are at their lowest point in their life. Its main goal is to give them a much safer environment than the streets. However, I wonder if it’s really safe, especially in the case of a female presence. An article from San Francisco Chronic called “Should homeless be a death sentence?” authored by Elizabeth Dzeng is certainly a reality check up for the authorities that homeless shelter is certainly not a safe haven for the people. Dr. Elizabeth Dzeng is an assistant professor of medicine at UCSF whom had fair amount of encounters toward the female side of the homeless population. Throughout the article, she mentions two patients. One of them is an elderly who almost got raped in a shelter and was forced to sleep with the predator in the same room. The other patient is a woman whom she called Leslie who is also a woman living on the streets. Through these two, Dzeng illustrates the faulty side of the homeless faculties, such as allowing thievery, raping, and violence despite it being a shelter. Although her title is called what it is, I believe her main subject or argument is that homeless women need more “special attention”.

What brought this article to my attention is the rhetorical strategies such as ethos, pathos, and logos that Dzeng used in her writing. She began her article by telling us her field of occupation, which is a medical field of some sort to show credibility in what she’s about to say later. Certainly, this is an ethos tactic where you build trust with the audience with personal branding, which in Dzeng’s case someone in the medical field who have the ability to help save lives. Then she worked on our emotions, a pathos tactic, by telling Leslie’s story, who is a homeless woman with a Type 1 diabetes. Anyone who has Type 1 diabetes will need to constantly inject insulin so that their sugar levels don’t go too high. However, Leslie frequent to the emergency because her “insulin and lifeblood would get lost each time.” Even if she goes to a shelter, “she would get robbed, again and again.” With such condition yet living on the streets, she is between the line of living and dead. Completely tear jerking, isn’t it so? Its vivid descriptions sink deep into your mind. You start to think about the people you know who have the same condition and you start to think what if they were in the same situation or what If yourself is in the same situation where you’re between life and death. Such is the tactic of pathos. It makes you empathic. Finally, the last tactic she used is logos, which she used as a proof statistically and to reason with logic through those numbers. Dzeng did so by providing “a study from San Francisco General Hospital on homeless women.” The numbers were “27 percent of the homeless were women; 60 percent of the homeless women experienced some form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.” Utilizing this fact, she logically reasons why women need more special attention. Another statistic she used was “a study in the United Kingdom showed that the average life expectancy for homeless person was 30 years lower than the general population, and another study showed that the risk of death was four to 31 times higher in homeless women than among women in general.” This proof her point in how women are more in danger than the average male homeless population.

Overall, Dzeng’s logos, pathos, and ethos have thoroughly convinced me that homeless women aren’t safe even with the homeless shelter. It actually brought more danger and fear which is completely the opposite of what it is for. Although Dzeng used mostly pathos to inform the audience, I believe that providing emotional examples to create sympathy can help a lot with the cause. However, I also believe that she needs more logos to give a bigger impact on her audience. Also, one flaw I would like to mention is the full description of her occupation was at the end of the article and not at the top. It would bring much more credibility if she were to mention it at the beginning of the article so that people would feel more trust. Anyhow, the article was thoughtfully written.


Citation: Dzeng, Elizabeth. “ Should homelessness be a death sentence?” NY Times. 2016, June 30th.

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