Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 311
Rights of Man by Thomas Paine makes reference to important figures in his life and in the proceedings of governments during the time of his writing. While there are no characters in this work as there would be in a work of fiction, these people are the closest thing to characters that appear in the work.
Edmund Burke is an important figure in Paine's work because it is to him that Paine is responding in the first half of Rights of Man. Burke was once someone Paine considered a friend; then, however, he condemned the French Revolution with what Paine saw as unfair and untrue points. He published and spoke in England about the negative aspects of the French Revolution. Paine says that Burke was well-known for not believing France would revolt and stood against the revolution as a way of saving face after it happened.
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette is another person who is prominent in Paine's work. The second half of Rights of Man is dedicated to him. Paine explains the difference between him and Burke. Lafayette says that people who are currently living are the important element of government. This contrasts with Burke's support of hereditary monarchies. Paine explains Lafayette's work in America; he came to the country as a friend during the American Revolution and helped them win their independence.
Louis XVI is another person mentioned in Rights of Man. He was the king of France during the French Revolution. Paine says that they weren't rebelling against him but rather "against the despotic principles of the Government." He goes on to say that Louis XVI isn't the one who created those principles; rather, they come from many years of monarchies before him.
Rights of Man discusses government principles more than people, but the primary characters are simply people involved in—and critical of—the governments.
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