Bathos is the term used to refer to a writer's inadequate and absurd attempts to use pathos. Pathos is a writer's attempts to appeal to a reader's emotions-pity, sympathy, etc. Bathos is when a writer attempts to appeal to emotions, but has done so in a way that is over the top and absurd.
Typically, bathos emerges when a writer overuses appeals to emotions. Modern comedic writers use bathos to be humorous.
Richard Nixon talks about a "gift" he received after the election (the insinuation that it was inappropriate):
"It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl--Tricia, the six-year old--named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it." (Richard M. Nixon, "Checkers Speech," September 23, 1952)
"In America, Osama Bin Laden is wanted to murder, terrorism, and unpaid parking tickets." Author Unknown
Example from The Naked Gun, movie:
"FRANK: A good cop – pointlessly cut down by some spineless hoodlums.
ED: That's no way for a man to die.
FRANK: No... you're right, Ed. A parachute not opening... that's a way to die, getting caught in the gears of a combine... having your nuts bit off by a Laplander, that's the way I want to go!
WILMA NORDBERG: Oh... Frank. This is terrible!
ED: Don't you worry, Wilma. Your husband is going to be alright. Don't you worry about anything! Just think positive. Never let a doubt enter your mind.
FRANK: He's right, Wilma. But I wouldn't wait until the last minute to fill out those organ donor cards. (The Naked Gun, 1988)
Literary Terms Examples