Tom Paine, Revolutionary Critical Essays

Olivia Coolidge


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Tom Paine, Revolutionary, Coolidge presents a fine account of Paine’s extraor-dinary life, his character, and his accomplishments. Her detailed sketch of his career as a propagandist and her depiction of his often-abrasive personality create an interesting and informative biography. Coolidge writes in a lucid, lively style that will appeal to teenagers and young adults alike.

Although Coolidge focuses primarily on the professional and public life of her subject, she allows the reader glimpses of his private life. Paine had a difficult nature. He never hesitated to speak his mind, regardless of whom he might insult. His utter lack of diplomacy explains, in part, why many of his written works were sensational and controversial. Paine was a pompous man who took offense easily. For these reasons, he had few friends at the end of his life. Coolidge describes his character flaws, however, in an attractive and humorous way that wins for him the reader’s sympathy.

The author devotes a whole chapter to each of Paine’s best-known works: Common Sense, The American Crisis, The Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason. She describes the people who influenced his thinking, the background of his ideas, the events that led up to the publication of the pamphlets, and the public reaction to them. She also provides a brief summary of each with a short evaluation, explaining the role that they played in Paine’s life and the...

(The entire section is 501 words.)