Barnum’s Joice Heth

For a hoax to be persuasive or successful the source must have an authority on the topic or Ethos. Alike, the audience is more apt to believe something that is highly detailed and supported by secondary sources. For example in Barnum’s “The Life of Joice Heth” he uses elaborate detail to imply the legitimacy of the case he presents. He explains her diet down to the way she prefers her eggs and tells the audience her average. These random details are important in establishing a convincing hoax. However, Barnum does not solely rely on his own accounts as evidence. He presents the reader with multiple secondary sources from not only other established newspapers and published but from the subject herself. Since the article is presented in a published medium, it legitimizes Barnum’s accounts. The nature of newspaper is to present current events with an unbiased stance. He is seemingly impartial, with an informative tone making it a convincing article. An unsuccessful hoax is one with too much embellishment. Barnum presents this woman as the oldest woman alive as well as George Washington’s nurse, a coupling that is pushing the boundaries of what is believable and what is not.

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