Pathos Definition English Literature Example

In English literature, pathos refers to the quality of a work that evokes feelings of pity, sympathy, or sorrow in the reader or audience. It is an emotional appeal that aims to elicit an empathetic response. Pathos can be achieved through various literary techniques, such as vivid descriptions, tragic events, or the portrayal of vulnerable characters.

An example of pathos in English literature can be found in William Shakespeare's play "Romeo and Juliet." In the final scene of the play, both Romeo and Juliet meet their tragic ends. As they lie dead on the stage, their families and friends gather around, mourning their untimely deaths. The scene is filled with grief and sorrow, invoking a strong sense of pathos in the audience. The audience empathizes with the characters' tragic fate and feels a deep emotional response to their untimely demise, evoking feelings of pity and sadness.

It aims to create an emotional connection between the reader and the characters or situations being portrayed. Pathos is commonly used to elicit a strong emotional response and engage the reader on a deeper level. Here are some ways in which pathos is employed in English literature:

Tragic Events: 

Pathos is often used to depict tragic events such as death, loss, or suffering. Authors create emotionally charged scenes to elicit feelings of sorrow and empathy in readers. Examples include the death of a beloved character or the portrayal of war-torn landscapes.

Emotional Appeals: 

Pathos is frequently employed to persuade readers by appealing to their emotions. Writers use poignant language and vivid imagery to evoke sympathy and convince readers of a particular viewpoint. This is commonly seen in persuasive essays, speeches, or political literature.

Character Development: 

Pathos is used to develop and deepen the emotional connection between readers and characters. Authors create relatable, vulnerable, or sympathetic characters who face hardships or personal struggles. Through their experiences, readers are moved to empathize with their situations.

Social Issues: 

Pathos is used in literature to shed light on social issues and evoke a sense of social consciousness in readers. By presenting the struggles of marginalized or oppressed individuals, authors aim to generate empathy and inspire action for change.


Pathos plays a significant role in romantic literature by highlighting intense emotions such as love, longing, and heartbreak. Authors use poetic language and imagery to evoke a profound emotional response from readers, immersing them in the characters' emotional journeys.

Coming-of-Age Stories: 

Pathos is often used in coming-of-age narratives to explore the emotional growth and challenges faced by young protagonists. These stories often depict characters navigating complex relationships, identity crises, or difficult life circumstances, evoking a strong emotional response in readers.

Grief and Loss: 

Pathos is commonly employed to depict the emotional impact of grief and loss. Authors use poignant descriptions and introspective narratives to portray the pain and longing associated with the death of a loved one, leaving readers with a profound sense of sorrow.

Overall, pathos is a powerful tool in English literature that enables writers to tap into the reader's emotions, fostering a deeper connection and engagement with the text. By evoking feelings of pity, sympathy, and sadness, pathos enhances the literary experience and helps convey profound themes and messages.

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