In this essay, I seek
to compare Ruth Whippman’s “Happiness Is Other People” and Ginny Graves’s “The
Secret to Deeper Happiness Is Simpler Than You Might Think” on their
persuasiveness based on their use of rhetorical appeals.
I believe Ruth Whippman’s piece is more
persuasive as she demonstrates better use of ethos and pathos.
Firstly, Whippman’s professional
background advantages her in terms of ethos. While her contemporary, Ginny
Graves, is an experienced and well-published author in her own right, Whippman
is an expert on the matter who spent years “researching and writing a book
about happiness” (Whippman, 2017, para. 4). This helps Whippman gain
credibility with greater ease while also reducing her urgency to establish
legitimacy, allowing her to use her opening paragraphs to strengthen her other
appeals, namely-pathos, via an anecdotal preamble. In contrast, Graves’s ethos
relies heavily on her deference to experts, and results in their prompt
introduction a mere three sentences into her piece (Graves, 2017, para. 1), which
limits her initial persuasive and stylistic options.
Therefore, while Graves strictly
employs secondary sources to back her arguments, Whippman demonstrates stronger
ethos through her long-standing expertise and eminence as a primary source,
allowing her to utilise additional appeals like pathos to further endear her to
Secondly, Whippman’s piece also
exhibits strong use of pathos. While both authors use
emotional appeals in their work, Whippman’s anecdotal delivery style is more
persuasive as, unlike Graves, she draws on personal experiences and emotions to
substantiate her claims.
As stated above,
Whippman’s preamble comes in the form of a personal anecdote which appeals to
various emotions. She opens by telling readers about arriving in the United
States “friendless and lonely” (Whippman, 2017, para. 1), describing it as a
“low moment” (Whippman, 2017, para. 1), and goes on to profess she felt
incomplete without friends or community (Whippman, 2017, para. 2). These
personal, confessional statements invite sympathy and sadness on the readers’
part. She also appeals to the readers’ sense of humor through her sardonic
critique of popular self-help trends, most notably when she stated that she
thought 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’s
anecdotal delivery style help enable a strong emotional connection. This
connection is further strengthened by Whippman’s mention of common, relatable
experiences, like the “Pavlovian jolt of excitement” (Whippman, 2017, para. 2)
one experiences whenever our phone buzzes (Whippman, 2017, para. 2).
Graves’s piece also
demonstrates pathos, albeit to a lesser degree. She opens her piece by
describing a hypothetical set of idyllic personal circumstances centred around
getting ones dream house and being popular on Facebook (Graves, 2017, para. 1),
which draws readers in and appeals to their imagination. Her casual, playful
writing tone and use of informal words like “instagrammable” (Graves, 2017,
para. 1) also enhances her approachability and makes her appear more
down-to-earth. However, Graves does not insert any personal experiences and
emotions into her piece, resulting in weaker emotional impact. In contrast,
Whippman’s emotional anecdotes generate more empathy which helps to enhance her
However, Graves demonstrates better
use of logos in substantiating her claims. In her piece, Graves’s claims are
consistently substantiated by a variety of experts ranging from psychologists
to life-coaches to medical professionals. She also demonstrates the use of
cause-and-effect to make her case, evident from her assertion that ceaseless
hedonism will lead to lower levels of happiness due to an increased dopamine
threshold (Graves, 2017, para. 4). Graves’s citing of authority and causal
reasoning help her make a strong logic-based argument.
Conversely, while Whippman provides sources to support some of her claims about the
rising trend in solitary “happiness pursuits” (Whippman, 2017, para. 6) and the
burgeoning self-help book industry (Whippman, 2017, para. 6), she did not back
up her main argument – that happiness stems from social interactions – with any
evidence. This is despite the fact that,
according to Whippman (2017), “study after study” showed a positive
relationship between social relationships and happiness (para. 13).
That said, further
research on my part shows that Whippman’s claims, while unsubstantiated in the
article, remain scientifically valid nonetheless. Several prominent studies
support Whippman’s claims that having strong social relationships correlate
with higher levels of happiness (Diener & Seligman, 2002, p. 81), and that
social isolation poses a health risk (Wilkinson & Marmot 2003, p. 22).While
Whippman’s expertise means she remains a credible source to her readers despite
her less scientific approach to persuasion, Graves’s diligence in actively
backing up her claims demonstrates better use of logos on her part.
In conclusion, while
Graves’s piece wins out in terms of logos, Whippman’s superior use of ethos and
pathos means that her piece is more persuasive overall.