Burke begins with a description of how engaged one must be to discover something new and a depiction of the characteristics of an interested person as fundamentally childlike. This sets up his study of aesthetics because he writes about things that would ordinarily not be noticed by people focused on the tasks they must complete.
He then turns to the concepts of pain and pleasure. These are innate to the human experience and have the capacity to guide one's direction awareness. From a state of pleasure, one can fully notice images and use sensory information freely; this experience is different from that of the removal of pain or the lack thereof. Burke uses a depiction of someone who undergoes pain but escapes in the Iliad to show how the combination of elation and remaining hurt does not result in the lasting pleasure that he first upholds to exist.
Burke recognizes that the removal of pain has its own sensation, which he labels delight. Having defined this, Burke seeks to characterize the end of pleasure. He trifurcates this into indifference, disappointment, and grief. Grief occurs when the pleasure is forever lost, disappointment occurs when the pleasure ends without warning, and indifference occurs when the pleasure tapers off over a long and suitable period of time.
The details seen thus far have been within the self, and Burke next turns to the external forces on behavior and sentiment. These are self-preservation, which concerns itself with the basic needs of a human, and those of society, which concerns itself with attention and similarity in sight.
Much of passion cannot be predicted; because of this lack of preparatory knowledge, Burke presents the full power of surprise as comprised of astonishment and horror, which are not independent from one another. He shows how fear arrests individuals from acting at all and how terror largely rests in the presentation of an object, such as animals.