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What is pathos? (PAY-THOS)

Pathos is when the reader feels sympathy or pity for the character that they are reading about. This is not to be confused with EMPATHY, which is when the reader can imagine what the character is feeling, both good OR bad: Pathos is only the bad side!

In the picture, we see a girl who does not look like she’s very happy. She is staring out of a window, which means that she may be thinking deeply about something, but her body language is very closed: it is likely that she is depressed or upset about something.

We feel PATHOS for her, because we have all felt sad in the past and we can all think of a time when we, or someone we cared about, has looked like this.

Why do we use pathos?

Pathos is an excellent technique to use if we are trying to make the reader feel sad for a character. It makes what we read seem far more realistic if we feel for the characters that we read about.