In this essay, I seekto compare Ruth Whippman’s “Happiness Is Other People” and Ginny Graves’s “TheSecret to Deeper Happiness Is Simpler Than You Might Think” on theirpersuasiveness based on their use of rhetorical appeals.I believe Ruth Whippman’s piece is morepersuasive as she demonstrates better use of ethos and pathos.Firstly, Whippman’s professionalbackground advantages her in terms of ethos. While her contemporary, GinnyGraves, is an experienced and well-published author in her own right, Whippmanis an expert on the matter who spent years “researching and writing a bookabout happiness” (Whippman, 2017, para. 4).
This helps Whippman gaincredibility with greater ease while also reducing her urgency to establishlegitimacy, allowing her to use her opening paragraphs to strengthen her otherappeals, namely-pathos, via an anecdotal preamble. In contrast, Graves’s ethosrelies heavily on her deference to experts, and results in their promptintroduction a mere three sentences into her piece (Graves, 2017, para. 1), whichlimits her initial persuasive and stylistic options. Therefore, while Graves strictlyemploys secondary sources to back her arguments, Whippman demonstrates strongerethos through her long-standing expertise and eminence as a primary source,allowing her to utilise additional appeals like pathos to further endear her toreaders.Secondly, Whippman’s piece alsoexhibits strong use of pathos. While both authors useemotional appeals in their work, Whippman’s anecdotal delivery style is morepersuasive as, unlike Graves, she draws on personal experiences and emotions tosubstantiate her claims.
As stated above,Whippman’s preamble comes in the form of a personal anecdote which appeals tovarious emotions. She opens by telling readers about arriving in the UnitedStates “friendless and lonely” (Whippman, 2017, para. 1), describing it as a”low moment” (Whippman, 2017, para. 1), and goes on to profess she feltincomplete without friends or community (Whippman, 2017, para. 2). Thesepersonal, confessional statements invite sympathy and sadness on the readers’part. She also appeals to the readers’ sense of humor through her sardoniccritique of popular self-help trends, most notably when she stated that shethought a self-help email with the subject “Go Withinwards” (Whippman, 2017,para. 4) was “an ad for a nose-to-tail offal restaurant” (Whippman, 2017, para.
4). These emotional appeals grab the readers’ attention and Whippman’sanecdotal delivery style help enable a strong emotional connection. Thisconnection is further strengthened by Whippman’s mention of common, relatableexperiences, like the “Pavlovian jolt of excitement” (Whippman, 2017, para. 2)one experiences whenever our phone buzzes (Whippman, 2017, para. 2).
Graves’s piece alsodemonstrates pathos, albeit to a lesser degree. She opens her piece bydescribing a hypothetical set of idyllic personal circumstances centred aroundgetting ones dream house and being popular on Facebook (Graves, 2017, para. 1),which draws readers in and appeals to their imagination. Her casual, playfulwriting tone and use of informal words like “instagrammable” (Graves, 2017,para.
1) also enhances her approachability and makes her appear moredown-to-earth. However, Graves does not insert any personal experiences andemotions into her piece, resulting in weaker emotional impact. In contrast,Whippman’s emotional anecdotes generate more empathy which helps to enhance herpersuasive power.However, Graves demonstrates betteruse of logos in substantiating her claims. In her piece, Graves’s claims areconsistently substantiated by a variety of experts ranging from psychologiststo life-coaches to medical professionals. She also demonstrates the use ofcause-and-effect to make her case, evident from her assertion that ceaselesshedonism will lead to lower levels of happiness due to an increased dopaminethreshold (Graves, 2017, para.
4). Graves’s citing of authority and causalreasoning help her make a strong logic-based argument.Conversely, while Whippman provides sources to support some of her claims about therising trend in solitary “happiness pursuits” (Whippman, 2017, para. 6) and theburgeoning self-help book industry (Whippman, 2017, para. 6), she did not backup her main argument – that happiness stems from social interactions – with anyevidence.
This is despite the fact that,according to Whippman (2017), “study after study” showed a positiverelationship between social relationships and happiness (para. 13).That said, furtherresearch on my part shows that Whippman’s claims, while unsubstantiated in thearticle, remain scientifically valid nonetheless. Several prominent studiessupport Whippman’s claims that having strong social relationships correlatewith higher levels of happiness (Diener & Seligman, 2002, p. 81), and thatsocial isolation poses a health risk (Wilkinson & Marmot 2003, p.
22).WhileWhippman’s expertise means she remains a credible source to her readers despiteher less scientific approach to persuasion, Graves’s diligence in activelybacking up her claims demonstrates better use of logos on her part.In conclusion, whileGraves’s piece wins out in terms of logos, Whippman’s superior use of ethos andpathos means that her piece is more persuasive overall.