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Ethical Appeals: “Harold and Maude” Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2019


The movie revolves around a young man who wishes to die. Harold comes from a rich family. He keeps staging death to deceive his mother. He claims to be emotional when his mother becomes frightened. In the end, his mother gets used to his mischievous activities although she still wishes that he lives a better life.

This movie is full of fiction and delusions. It is based on superstitions. In essence, it does not provide an effective argument. “Harold and Maude” contains several delusions which make it incredibly flawed. Inconsistencies in its arguments prove that the author’s use of ethical appeals is highly flawed. It can be observed that the movie does not present an effective ethos and logos.


The story revolves around a youth called Harold. He is obsessed with death. He therefore deceives people, including his mother. His obsession with death traces back to his school where he had burnt a chemistry laboratory. He therefore tries to evade logic by using deceptive evidences to achieve his goals. He does not want his mother’s ideas on his future. He therefore wishes to deceive and frighten her of his death.

However, he does not succeed in his mission; he gets deceived by Maude on her birthday. In essnce, the main issues at crossroads in the movie are the factors that derive happiness and enlightenment. According to Harold’s mother, enlightenment and happiness can be achieved through pursuing a good life. This includes marriage and career. However, according to Harold and Maude, life is about maximizing the opportunity when one is alive.

However, they achieve this by pursuing whatever pleases them. Consequently, there is war between life and death in the movie. While one side feels that the source of happiness and enlightenment is life, the other side feels that the source of happiness and enlightenment is death. Therefore, death is at war with life in determining the key to happiness and enlightenment.


In accordance with the movie, it can be said that ethical appeals cannot be utilized to manipulate people for them to think in a particular manner. However, this is usually possible when the appeals utilized are not flawed such that the audience does not realize manipulation.

This is observable when Harold’s mother faints on hearing of her son’s death. However, after realizing that it is all a lie, she proves that she is not manipulated by continuing to read her questionnaire when Harold shoots himself on the forehead. The author’s use of motive, persona, and tone is also clear as it shows that ethical appeals are not utilized strongly in the movie.


Several personas have been utilized in the movie. A persona refers to a character or role played by an actor. For instance, in the movie, several characters have played different roles.

For instance, Harold has played the role of persona in promoting death as a source of enlightenment and happiness. On the other hand, his mother has utilized family and career to promote life as a source of enlightenment and happiness.

Additionally, Maude has utilized her carefree nature to counterbalance both life and death. Harold shows his persona by deceiving the police, local authorities, school and his mother that he is dead when the chemistry lab burns. However, his character as a deceiver is established although he tries to make them as real as possible. Moreover, he scares away all his dates to destroy his mother’s plan. Nonetheless he tries to marry Maude who is true to her carefree nature.


Tone refers to the attitudes implied by the author to the audience. In this regard, it concerns the author’s tone to his audience in the movie. In this movie, the author‘s tone is informal, and playful. Moreover, it is ironic to some extent. This is viewed in the context of Harold, his mother, and Maude. For instance, throughout the play Harold shows a playful tone in his antics and deceptions. He shoots himself in the head when his mother tries to find him a marriage partner.

Moreover, he attends virtually all funerals and converts his sports car into a hearse. Furthermore, he scares away his dates with the last lady finding it deceptive and funny. Ironic tone is evidenced when Harold chooses to wed a 79 year old woman. Moreover, this happens despite the fact that he has had many young suitors. The tone of irony is also observed when Maude poisons herself on her 80th birthday. Essentially, the tone of this movie is informal since it is full of hoaxes.


Motive refers to the cause of an action or an incitement to an act. The motives of the author in this movie are many. However, it can be noted that he tries to discredit life, normal living and family life. He tries to promote the role of death in people. He tries to demean the essence of life. This is evidenced in Harold’s behavior which portrays him as wishing for death. However, surprisingly, he does not die. This is done deliberately to ensure he stages more fake deaths.

The theme of death is utilized profoundly by the author to exemplify his mission and intention which is to mock life. He uses Harold and Maude, two of his main characters to mock life. For instance, both Maude and Harold are said to enjoy attending funerals. Moreover, Harold enjoys faking deaths despite his mother’s continuous plea against it. Essentially, the author’s motive of mocking life is clear.


Use of Persona

From the movie, it can be noted that use of persona was not effective. That is, the author utilized effective characters in their roles as he wanted but the results were not achieved. For instance, Harold was utilized as a deceiver and it worked for some time, however, when he was caught, he could no longer deceive those who knew his actions namely his mother.

Moreover, use of Maude did not achieve the desired goal because the wedding did not take place. Moreover, Harold did not kill himself after his lover’s death. In essence, as much as the author tried to achieve his goals through use of persona, it did not work because he was forced to utilize fictions and superstitions to assert his ideology.

Use of Tone

Tone was utilized effectively by the author to try and achieve his goal. For instance, attending funerals became a hobby for the two love birds, something which is weird and funny. The tone of irony was highly expressed by the author. Moreover, the hoax made it a joke rather than a serious issue.

Moreover, a playful tone is also evidenced when Harold shoots himself on the head while his mother is reading the questionnaire. To add to this, his mother is not surprised at this act, instead, she goes on with her activities. Essentially, the author utilized his tone effectively in driving the theme.

Use of motive

It must be noted that use of motive did not achieve the goal since mocking life became difficult at the end of his movie. It is observable in the movie that the author’s motive aims at mocking life through his actions. For instance, he uses Harold repeatedly to commit suicide and stage deaths. In addition, he goes beyond reality in ensuring that Harold defies death even in trying to stage death.

Additionally, he puts it in the main characters to despise happiness and enlightenment through good morals in life. However, he fails in his motive since Harold still imagines of a life with a family. This is proved when he falls in love with Maude and hopes to start a family. Essentially, the author’s use of motive was ineffective.


The movie revolves around a young man who wishes to die. To achieve this, he stages deaths in many occasions despite her mother’s disapproval. With regards to this movie, it can be stated that ethical appeal does not manipulate people since he uses fictions to try and manipulate audiences.

Moreover, he uses jokes to support his motives and persona which exemplifies the failure of his ethical appeals. Use of persona is emphasized on achieving fiction. This makes his main persona to be discredited. It can be observed that there is little credibility in the movie. Moreover, there is little or no logic in the same. Ultimately, this shows that the author has not used ethical appeals effectively in the movie.

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