Ethos, Pathos, Logos in Mary Fisher’s 1992 Address

The address under analysis was delivered in 1992 by Mary Fisher, a woman who had HIV and wanted to change Americans’ treatment of the disease and those infected by it. The speech’s call for action was changing the public’s and government’s attitude toward HIV and AIDS. The appeal was aimed both at increasing people’s awareness of the issue and encouraging the US citizens, as well as people from other countries, to understand the depth of the catastrophe presented by these conditions.

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The speaker was Mary Fisher, a woman who contracted HIV from her second husband (“Center for AIDS research,” n.d.). Fisher had two young children at the time when she delivered her famous speech. In 1992, she was sure that she was about to die soon, and her passionate arguments made many people change their minds about HIV and its status as an epidemic. Despite the risk of being stigmatized, Mary did not conceal her problem. Instead, she became an ardent activist and speaker advocating individuals with HIV-positive status (“Center for AIDS research,” n.d.). At present, Mary is an author, artist, and speaker famous all over the world.

A detailed analysis of Fisher’s appeal to the three modes of proof will make it possible to evaluate the speech from different angles. The appeal to ethos is defined as the “reputation, authority, and integrity” of the speaker (Pearson, Nelson, Titsworth, & Hosek, 2017, p. 353). Fisher’s right to deliver the address was justified by her right to speak, which she earned due to being one of the victims of the problem she was discussing. By making the audience believe what she was and what she was going through, Fisher managed to sound persuasive. The credibility of the speaker served as a means of appealing to ethos.

Pathos was probably the most vividly represented in Fisher’s address. Pathos, which is referred to as the “emotional proof,” was emphasized in the speech by means of the author’s narrative (Pearson et al., 2017, p. 354). Fisher gave many examples of how people felt isolated because of their HIV-positive status. She made her address rather emotional with the help of using antonyms to draw attention to the subject of the speech.

For instance, Fisher emphasized that HIV was “not a distant threat” but “a present danger” (EIUPublicSpeaking, n.d.). Also, Fisher employed comparisons to make the argument more emotional. For instance, she mentioned that though she was “female and contracted this disease in marriage,” she was “one with the lonely gay man sheltering a flickering candle from the cold wind of his family’s rejection” (EIUPublicSpeaking, n.d.). With the help of these and other forms of emotional persuasion, Fisher appealed to the listeners’ pathos.

Finally, it is necessary to discuss the logos of Fisher’s address. Logos is the kind of persuasion involving the use of logical argument (Pearson et al., 2017). The representation of this dimension of proof in Fisher’s story was the weakest. She did not infer any statistical data in her address, mentioning that “forty million, sixty million, or a hundred million” people might be infected in the next few years (EIUPublicSpeaking, n.d.).

However, despite the lack of logical argument in her speech, Fisher managed to make it brilliantly persuasive and impressive due to the effective use of the ethos and pathos modes. The address remained one of the most popular speeches in the history of the USA.

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Center for AIDS research: School of medicine. (n.d.). Web.

EIUPublicSpeaking. (n.d.). Mary Fisher: A whisper of AIDS 1992 [Video file]. Web.

Pearson, J. C., Nelson, P. E., Titsworth, S., & Hosek, A. M. (2017). Human communication (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Ethos, Pathos, Logos in Mary Fisher’s 1992 Address'. 4 July.

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