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In the passage below from Common Sense, explain Thomas Paine's purpose?  '...I ask,...

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sunshine3 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2012 at 3:41 PM via web

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In the passage below from Common Sense, explain Thomas Paine's purpose? 

 '...I ask, hath your house been burnt? hath your property been destroyed before your face? are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or a child by their hands, and yourself the ruined wretched survivor? If you have not, then are you not a judge of those who have. But if you have, and can still shake hands with murderers, then you are unworthy of the name husband, father, friend or lover and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant.'

 

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 4, 2012 at 7:11 PM (Answer #1)

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Thomas Paine, author of the pamphlet Common Sense, became the voice of democracy and freedom during the Amerian Revoloution. Common sense was a very popular pamphlet written during the American Revolutionary War. As the title implies, Paine provides facts, arguments, and of course, "common sense' as inspiration for the colonial citizens to fight against the tyranny of Britain.  His desire was to have the readers look at the issues and  let their emotions promote their decisions. 

In the following pages, I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense: and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession...

Paine was passionate about the fight for America's freedom.  His pamphlet commented on the events and problems of the people, hoping to enlist every America to support the cause for liberty. 

For most of the pamphlet, Paine uses a logical approach. Like the detective on Dragnet states, "just the facts, Madam, just the facts." However, toward the end of his diatribe, Paine lets go of his emotions by confronting the citizens that were sitting on the fence hoping that the war would go away

These were the people who were wishing that someone would say:

Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences of Great Britain, and, still hoping for the best, are apt to call out, 'Come, come, we shall be friends again for all this...'

After this statement, Paine begins to lambast the  men who still want to be ruled by the King in Britain.  He asks them how can they love and honor a monarch who has brought the sword and fire into their country.

These men who want this reunion cannot be trusted because they are weak, ignorant, and biased.  Further, he accuses the British of being murders who have killed innocent victims, and looted and burned houses. If a person can welcome and shake hands with these criminals, then you are not worthy:

[if you] can still "shake hands with the murderers"[you] are "unworthy of the name of husband, father, friend, lover, and whatever may be your rank or title in life, you have the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant!"

If a person can welcome and shake hands with these criminals, then he is not worthy of his family or station in life because he is a weakling and self-serving flatterer.

With his particular style of plain facts coupled with expressive, passionate language, Paine wrote one of the most important documents of the American Revolution.  Paine's use of logos and pathos in his arguments establishes a style that every citizen could easily understand. 

Plain and simple language with a bit of passion thrown in--this was one of the most important documents in the American Revolution.  Paine asks the American to stand up against the oppression of liberty by the British.

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