Pathos, Its Several Elements With Their Enumeration And Definition

Pathos originates in, or is caused by an affection of the mind of a very vivid character, containing about an equal measure of pain and of pleasure. The emotions which pathos excites are mainly those of pity, sympathy, and melancholy. The effect of pathos is more to melt and subdue than to arouse us, and it is productive on the whole rather of placidity than of passion.

The elements of pathos should, consequently, be each adapted to excite, or at any rate should conduce to promote that state of mind which the sentiment of pathos itself occasions, each severally contributing to it, and together serving to call it forth. Nevertheless, it may happen, as in corresponding cases respecting the ingredients of certain chemical compounds, that one of these elements taken by itself appears to do very little, if anything, to produce the end to be effected.

The following appear to me to be the main essential elements which constitute pathos :-1. Weakness. 2. Suffering. 3. Virtue. 4. Unjust Oppression. 5. Connection. 6. Dependence.

(1) The idea of weakness in the subject of our contemplation, which is the first of the elements of pathos, by itself may appear to contribute nothing towards calling forth the sentiment in question; nevertheless, when united with other elements, it is very important, and indeed essential for this purpose, as unless it is combined with them, the force and energy of the whole composition will be lost. Thus the idea of a strong man suffering excites nothing of the pathetic; but if the sufferer be a weak man, or a woman, or a child, pathos is at once produced.

Weakness as an element of pathos is entirely passive in regard to its operation, is originative in its nature, but, as already observed, it depends on being combined with other elements, for the production of this sentiment; although it acts directly in conjunction with them, and is indispensable as an element to complete the combination, so as to produce with efficiency and vivacity the pathetic in either of the arts.

(2) Suffering is another very important element in the excitement of the pathetic, and consists in the opinion that the subject of this sentiment is undergoing pain, by means of which our sympathies are excited on his behalf.

This element is active as regards its operation, and is originating in its nature, and acts independently of any other element, and in a direct manner, in the promotion of the pathetic. From its great importance as an element of this principle, it is absolutely essential and indispensable for its production, as without the notion of suffering, either present or prospective, the feelings on which it is based will not be called forth.

But although suffering adds to the effect of representations of this kind, yet nothing that is actually distressing, much less which is horrible or offensive, should be introduced, as being utterly opposed to and destructive of picturesque character.

(3) The idea of the possession of virtue, by the object of it, is also an important element in pathos, in order further to excite the sentiment already alluded to ; as in the first place it calls forth our interest and our sympathy on behalf of the subject of this emotion, who is endowed with this quality; and in the next place it induces to the opinion that the being who is suffering is a meritorious person, and on that account enlists our pity on his behalf.

As regards its operation, this element is essentially active, and it is originating in its nature. For its effect in the constitution of the pathetic, it is, however, merely auxiliary to other elements, and has no force by itself. It operates only indirectly in this respect, and is more or less essential in the production of pathos.

(4) The notion of unmerited oppression being inflicted on the subject of pathos, is another of its elements; and its presence is necessary to raise in the mind the feeling that the sufferer is undeserving of the calamity under which he labours.

This element is nearly allied to the one last described, al-though really and essentially distinct from it; and arises from the opinion that the subject of pain, concerning whom our sympathies are excited, is suffering unjustly, and that his case is one of hardship and deserving of commiseration, which contributes vigorously, both of itself and as regards the stimulation of the other elements, to excite a sentiment of pathos towards him.

The notion of hardship in this case may be entertained, not only where the subject of it is entirely innocent, but also in those instances where the extent of the punishment is out of all due proportion to the amount of the offence.

This element is passive as regards its mode of operation, and derivative as regards its origin. It acts in a direct manner with respect to the attainment of its object, and is quite independent of any other element. Its presence, to some extent, is absolutely essential to the production of pathos.

(5) The idea of a connection between ourselves and the subject of pathos, even if this alliance exist only in the imagination, has a powerful effect to excite the mind; as unless there is some bond of union, real or supposed, between ourselves and the object of sympathy, a strong feeling in our own breasts is but little likely to be called forth on its behalf.

Connection is, therefore, another element in the excitement of pathos, and it is passive as regards its operation, and in its nature originating ; it is also independent of any other element, and acts in a direct manner. It is not nevertheless absolutely essential, for, however influential in the production of pathos, as certain subjects which excite this emotion are entirely, in reality, unconnected with us, and indeed have long ceased to exist, except in the records of history, or are located in regions very remote from our shores.

(6) In addition to, and wholly independent of any feeling of connection with the subject of pathos, is that of a belief in its dependence upon us for relief from the sufferings which it is undergoing, which may happen with regard to a person with whom we have no immediate or permanent connection; as, on. the other hand, one with whom we are very closely allied may be wholly independent of our aid.

The notion, however, not merely of a connection with, but of a certain degree of dependence upon ourselves by the subject of pathos, although this may exist merely in the imagination, and but for a moment, is frequently an important element to ex-cite the emotions which this sentiment is calculated to call forth.

This element is passive as regards its operation, and originative of its kind; but it is wholly dependent on certain of the other elements for their aid in producing the pathetic, and by itself independently can do nothing in this respect. In regard to them, it operates in a direct manner; but it is nevertheless not absolutely essential for the production of the pathetic, and in several instances where pathos is vividly excited, it forms no element in its constitution.