A Critique Of Pay It Forward, A Movie By Mimi Leder

Carol Rogers (an American psychologist) believes every child has the power to change the world. That is why they must be the strategists who work towards their self-actualization. Trevor’s Social Studies teacher gives him an assignment. Mimi Leder’s film “Pay it Forward” shows how an 11 year old boy gets assigned a task in Social Studies class. This assignment is to develop an idea and implement it. Trevor is inspired by the assignment and embarks on a journey of good deeds to make a real difference in the world. Leder delivers a powerful message. She motivates and inspires people to act for the good of others through logos.

Logos is an effective way to convey the message of the writer. It is concise, clear, and logical. In the film’s opening, the lawyer’s daughter suffers from asthma and cannot breathe. Nurses ignore her condition. The victim of a stabbing wound claimed that his injury wasn’t life-threatening and they treated her first. In the film, an injured man is saved by a prominent lady. She was doing so because she was giving it back to her. Another example of logos used in the film is Trevor’s response to the question, “What have I done to change the World?”. Trevor replied with “Well Trevor,” which means that he gets a good night’s sleeping, eats a substantial breakfast, shows up on time, then passes the buck to him. His title as Social Studies teacher is enough to make him credible. However, he uses the speech to explain his assignment. Although it may not seem like much, his final few words that he stated, “pass the responsibility to you”, is a significant part of his argument. This phrase prompts students to think about their next steps. Additionally, Mr. Simonet said, “…you cannot drive, vote, or even use the toilet without my permission… You are still in 7th grade but you won’t be stuck there forever. One day, you’ll be free. They will one day be able to “free” themselves, despite being limited by their age. Pathos is used in order to tap into the emotions and support the argument. The purpose of this pathos being to bring about change by demonstrating kindness to others, is just one example. Trevor is riding home through a community of homeless people and invites Jerry to join him. Trevor helps Jerry to get on his feet and this is where the concept of Paying it forward starts. Although Trevor believes that he has failed Jerry, Jerry gets back on his feet after a fallout. Another example of how the film shows compassion is when Jerry is given a second chance. Jerry sees a lady standing on a bridge edge, ready to jump. She thinks he’s after her money. Trevor saved his life by changing his mind. He is genuine in his desire to help the lady and also help himself. It might save hers, if he can do it. Also, as Mr. Simonet stated in the script “Pay it Forward”, “… is the place where…in each of you…here [points in mind].” Simonet’s motivational speeches are emotional and emphasize the possibility of students changing the world.

Further, ethos is a way to convince others of a person’s credibility. In this instance, the screenwriter uses Mr. Simonet to communicate his feelings through his body language and strong voice. When Mr. Simonet speaks “…, he means “wrong, crazy, bummer and hard”. It’s possible”, students reflect on it. Trevor is not a successful person and would love to believe that it is possible. Trevor’s initiative to pay it forward is the most notable example of ethos. Trevor’s heroic deeds led Chandler, a reporter to investigate the source of the pay-it forward idea. Little did they learn that it was first brought up by an eleven-year-old boy. Chandler eventually found Trevor after his investigations. He informed him that the innovative “pay It Forward” project has had a much greater positive impact than he thought. Trevor’s innocence proves that he is more morally competent than his parents. If you take Jerry in, many people would think it dangerous. However, Trevor’s innocent eyes see Jerry as just another man in the street who needed help. Trevor believed he was capable.

Leslie Dixon employs pathos and logos to reinforce the message of his film. His goal is to motivate and inspire people through acts of kindness. The movie clearly articulates its real goals. They are to encourage people to consider how a simple idea could make a significant impact on the world. This was achieved easily by the outstanding acting. The movie used convincing reasoning, evidence, trustworthiness and emotional appeal to grab the attention of the audience. You should take advantage of the next opportunity to make a difference for someone you care about. You may be surprised at the unexpected, undiscovered ideas or thoughts that lead to another step, which could potentially lead to a breakthrough in you life.


  • marthareynolds

    I'm Martha, a 27-year-old blogger, volunteer, and student. I'm a graduate of the University of Utah, where I studied communications and political science. I'm passionate about education and volunteer work, and I love spending time with my family and friends.

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