Comparing the Effectiveness of Elie Wiesel and Russell Baker

Topics: Auschwitz concentration camp, Elie Wiesel, Rhetoric Pages: 9 (2775 words) Published: September 23, 2014


Leah Krainz
Miss Marchek and Mrs. Wood
AP English Language and Composition
10 October 2012
Comparing the Effectiveness of Elie Wiesel and Russell Baker
Elie Wiesel’s text “The Perils of Indifference” and Russell Baker’s text “Happy New Year?” convey a common underlying message: succumbing to social culture for the sake of acceptance has consequences. This message is explained in each work through the usage of Wiesel and Baker’s ethos, pathos, tone, figurative language, and rhetorical questioning. These rhetorical devices are used differently in the two texts, as each writer had a different style and audience to compose for. Although each piece was written skillfully and uniquely with a common underlying message, one was more effective than the other. Elie Wiesel conveys a more effective message than Russell Baker, due to his usage of ethos and rhetorical questioning.

Elie Wiesel’s The Perils of Indifference was written and recited for The White House on April 12, 1999. In order for him to enforce his message onto his sophisticated and knowledgeable audience, he had to incorporate strong ethos into his composition. Many individuals are familiar with his award winning literary work “Night”, which tells of his ghastly experiences as a Jew during World War II. Although it can be assumed that the audience members at The White House are aware of Wiesel’s background, his usage of ethos in “The Perils of Indifference” paints a vivid image of his past, even if the audience has no prior knowledge of it. The first example of elaborate ethos in Elie Wiesel’s work can be located on the second page, in the second paragraph. Wiesel ends the previous paragraph explaining how “…their [those who are indifferent] lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to abstraction”. He uses the second paragraph to describe the appearance and mentality of the “Muselmänner”, who were “the most tragic of all prisoners” at the concentration camp Auschwitz. Elie Wiesel continues to describe them by explaining that “Wrapped in their torn blankets, they would sit or lie on the ground, staring vacantly into space, unaware of who or where they were, strangers to their surroundings. They no longer felt pain, hunger, thirst. They feared nothing. They felt nothing. They were dead and did not know it”. This example of ethos strengthens Wiesel’s credibility immensely, as it forces the audience to realize that he may have been present at Auschwitz while it was used to imprison Jews, and other social minorities. It allows them to concede that is aware the horrors that can come out of succumbing to social culture for the sake of acceptance. The second example of strong ethos in The Perils of Indifference is located on the second page, in the third paragraph. Elie Wiesel describes how he and other prisoners at the concentration camps felt about the lack of effort others, including God, made to rescue them. He writes “We felt that to be abandoned by God was worse than to be punished by Him. Better an unjust God than an indifferent one. For us to be ignored by God was a harsher punishment than to be a victim of His anger”. This example of ethos enforces to the audience that he was a prisoner at Auschwitz, who was one of the victims of indifference himself. It forces them to realize that he has not only researched how indifference has negatively affected individuals, he has experienced firsthand the horrific experiences that indifference brought to many of the Jews. The last example of strong ethos can be found on page 2 of The Perils of Indifference, in paragraph seven. At this point in Wiesel’s composition, the audience is aware that he was a Jewish prisoner of Auschwitz during World War II. This example of ethos further enforces his past into the minds of the audience, so that they can easily recall it as he continues reciting his text. Elie Wiesel writes that “In the place that I come from,...
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