In "The Crisis, Number 1," how does Paine describe these times?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas Paine wrote the first installment of “The Crisis” in December of 1776.  He wrote it very shortly before the Battle of Trenton.  This was a time when things looked very dark for the Patriot cause as morale was very low among the soldiers.  Because things looked so bleak, Paine describes “these times” as very difficult times.  He does this in the first phrase of the pamphlet where he says (in a phrase that is now very famous) “these are the times that try men’s souls.”  At the same time, however, he says it is a hopeful time.

Paine does not spend a great deal of time actually describing the state of affairs in the colonies.  He tries to persuade readers that they should fight for independence.  He talks about the retreat of colonial soldiers to the Delaware.  He talks about what the British might do next.  However, he does not spend a long time describing the situation. 

Overall, Paine does say that these are very difficult times.  That is why they “try men’s souls.”  He acknowledges that things look bad for the Patriots.  However, he also says that people should be optimistic.  He says that he is sure that the colonists can still win.  He tells his readers that

I thank God, that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it.

In other words, Paine is saying that things are dark but that there is hope.  These times are the times that try men’s souls, but if the people are brave enough and strong enough, they will be able to win the fight and have a future that he describes in the last paragraph of the pamphlet as “glorious.”