Uncle Walt’s Rhetoric

In chapter 2 of Sean Morey’s The Digital Writer, Morey discusses the four basic elements of rhetoric- ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos. Ethos examines the ethical side of a speaker- how well does the audience trust him/her? Audiences will trust someone with expert knowledge in a subject, so it appeals to their ethos. Pathos plays on audience’s emotional reactions to a piece. Does it tug in their heartstrings? Unlike pathos, logos examines the logic of an argument. This is usually based on factual evidence and observations.

Kairos was not originally among the triangle, but it still plays a tremendous role. Kairos is the timeliness of a piece. Just like a news story, a piece works better if it is timely.

Because digital writing is so multi faceted, rhetoric is present in every aspect. Features such as hyperlinks and avatars, both of which can be used to guide your readers to certain conclusions.


Plato’s triangle



In one of my favorite commercials,  Apple’s iPad Air commercial, the audience experiences humanity from all corners of the earth. Not only is the cinematography breathtaking, but my Robin Williams (my favorite) reads Walt Whitman’s “O Me! O Life!” (my favorite poem) in the background. In a mere 1:30, Apple utilizes all four parts of Plato’s rhetorical appeals.



Because Apple is a house hold name, their ethos was established with ease. Viewers are aware that they are selling a product, but they take the moment to listen because it is Apple. As of March 2017, nearly 700 million iPhones were in use worldwide. Apple has a growing following, and remains at a low risk of loosing customers.

Apple also uses Robin Williams to instill trust in the audience. One of the world’s most beloved actors touched families across oceans. Children knew him as the Genie, and adults know him as Mr. Keating and Peter Pan. Williams was also reciting a scene from one of his amazing films, Dead Poets Society.


Whitman’s “O Me! O Life! is a powerful poem that demands viewers to figure out what mark they will leave after death. it appeals to the audiences sense of adventure and courage. The video shows clips of people exploring and doing activities they love with the people they love. It makes viewers feel empowered to start reaching their goals. The music also crescendos as the narration continues, adding to the sense of power.


The commercial shows the iPad Air being used for science, music, travel, sports, writing, and everything in between. This of course shows how versatile the new technology has become. Apple also hints at the products availability- they capture people of all background using the iPad Air. Similar to ethos, Apple uses their name and credibility to help establish logos. Consumers are aware of the quality of previous Apple products, so they can assume the new iPad Air will be more advanced.


The last aspect of their ad is timeliness. The advertisement was originally aired at the beginning of January 2014. Apple knew that people would be making New Year’s resolutions and looking forward to change, so that took advantage of that concept by airing such an empowering ad. The ad added fuel to viewer’s fire to make the new year better than the last.

Watching the ad now also hits viewers with kairos and pathos. Later that year, Williams was discovered dead by suicide. For many fans, Williams’ honesty and openness about his battle with mental illness gave them hope. After news of his death circulated, fans were shaken. To hear his voice again, years later, reciting such a compelling poem still resonates with audiences.

Apple’s iPad Air commercial did a riveting job of applying each part of Plato’s rhetoric.  Besides selling their product, Apple’s purpose was to inspire people to become the type of people who use Apple products- adventurers, academics, authors, etc. The music, narration, video, and movement all come together in a master example of Plato’s rhetorical appeals.

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