Bathos vs pathos

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Bathos and pathos are two literary devices that are often confused. A literary device is a tool used by speakers and writers in order to produce a certain effect by manipulating words and using them in unique and unexpected ways in poetry, prose, narrative articles and essays concerning philosophy. We will examine the differing meanings of the literary terms bathos and pathos, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

Bathos a noun and a literary term that describes a situation in which a serious, emotional and heartfelt story full of genuine insight and emotion suddenly sinks to contemplate something trivial or everyday. Bathos is an anticlimax, it is banality. If the writer intends to stir deep thought and emotions in the reader, bathos will sabotage that intention. It is an anticlimax to an idea full of sentiment and meaning. Synonyms of the word bathos that may be found in a thesaurus are anticlimax, letdown, mawkishness. Bathos is usually a transgression performed by poor writers, though bathos may be used by comedy writers to great effect. Consider the Groucho Marx quote: “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” The word bathos was coined by Alexander Pope in 1728 in his essay, Peri Bathous, from the Greek word bathos, which means depth.

Pathos is a noun and a literary term that means to invoke deep or sentimental emotions or feelings in the reader, especially empathy, pity, sympathy, sorrow and longing. Pathos is used in fiction to inspire a depth of sentiment in the reader, but it is also used in persuasive arguments to appeal to the listener in a fundamental way. Synonyms of the word pathos that may be found in a thesaurus are poignancy, sentiment, tenderness. Aristotle described the use of pathos to persuade the listener in an argument of logic. The word pathos has been in use in the English language since the mid-1600s, derived from the Greek word pathos, which means feeling, emotion, calamity.


Grief is a mainstay of much recent television, via the Gothic bathos of “The Haunting of Hill House,” the destabilizing absurdity of “Kidding” and the rich meditations of “Sorry for Your Loss,” and also the third season of “True Detective” and the forthcoming, final season of “Catastrophe.” (The New Yorker)

The bathos in that aside testifies to the care director Lee Cronin and co-writer Stephen Shields take to describe a semi-functional household against which the mounting weirdness can be more starkly defined. (The Guardian)

“School of Rock,” based on the 2003 film of the same name starring Jack Black , is an unlikely hit for Andrew Lloyd Webber, who started out with rock in “Jesus Christ Superstar” but became better known for the feline frolicking of “Cats” and the orchestral bathos of “The Phantom of the Opera.” (The San Francisco Chronicle)

It might have been the fastest attempt to ever introduce characters, establish pathos and then cash in on that pathos by killing said characters in the history of cable TV, but its ultimate purpose was in service of Alpha’s infiltration of the fair. (Paste Magazine)

Nicholas Tamagna’s vocal warmth and ease, and his pathos, illuminated his caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place role of Ottone, entangled with Melissa Harvey’s beautifully sung Drusilla/Amore. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)