“The American Crisis: Number One” is an article written by Thomas Paine. Paine’s central principle for producing “The American Crisis: Number One” is to persuade the American people to seek their independence. Paine’s writing was widely published and read by many people, so his diction is formal and his vocabulary choice is simple and can be understood by the common man. The effectiveness of Paine’s writing is due primarily to his efficient tone, his exceptional use of figurative language, as well as his use of rhetorical strategies.
Tone is the attitude an author uses to approach their topic; it is the way the words are written to be perceived by the audience in a certain way. Paine’s tone in “Crisis No. One” is serious, especially due to the seriousness of the information being delivered. Paine’s tone needs to be serious in order to give his information in a thoughtful manner, like in the first sentence of the fifth paragraph he states, ” I turn with the warm ardor of a friend to those who have nobly stood, and are yet determined to stand the matter out: I call not upon a few, but upon all: not on this state or that state, but on every state: up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better to have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake” (Paine 110). Paine is basically stating that at this time there is great amount at stake, and the situation should not be taken lightly. Paine’s serious tone is also demonstrated in the second sentence of the sixth paragraph when he wrote, “There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful” (Paine 111). He is attempting to explain that some people are not seeing the big picture and that the enemy will
show no mercy towards them because they were injust. The tone an author uses in their work could ultimately determine how it is interpreted, which would make or break its effectiveness.
Figurative language is a device that is used to convey a message in a creative way. Paine utilizes personification to assist in describing America. Paine depicts America as a woman when he states, “America will never be happy till she gets clear of foreign dominion” (Paine 109). This aids in explaining that what is best for the country will also increase the stability of the nation and the people. Similes are used to help emphasize Paine’s ideas and feelings regarding America’s situation. Paine uses similes to make comparisons, “My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray of light” and “the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf” to show that his understanding is not skewed, and that the people need to be aware of tricks from others as well as their belligerent actions (Paine 110-111). Lastly, Paine applies personification to help evoke emotion from his readers. In the fifth paragraph it is declared that “The heart that feels not now is dead” (Paine 110). He makes use of this to help explain that if the people do not seek independence, they will not get it, and in return regret it. Figurative language is a powerful device because it often is able to bring emotion to the writing.
Rhetorical strategies, such as pathos, logos, and ethos, are used to help enhance the persuasiveness of writing. Logos is an appeal to the audience’s logic using statistics, facts, or if, then statements. Paine uses logos when he explains that “If being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then there is not such a thing as slavery upon earth” (Paine 108). The use of a cause and effect statement informs the people of a consequence for an action they may carry out, and it could possibly encourage the citizens to take part in the revolution. Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions. Paine is able to pull strings at the people’s hearts by writing about someone breaking into his house, burning his
property, threatening him and his family, then not being able to do anything about it in the fifth paragraph, “Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to “blind me in all cases whatsoever” to his absolute will, am I to suffer it?” . By writing this, Paine is able to make the people think, “What if this happened to me?”. Finally, ethos is the appeal to a person’s credibility. Paine is already an established writer, especially after producing his pamphlet, Common Sense. The third paragraph is filled with an experience that displays Paine’s credibility, which he is able to use to relate to the common man by recalling an experience he had. Already being established and relatable, more people are likely to listen to and follow what Paine writes. Rhetorical strategies are essential in any persuasive writing and can determine the effectiveness of it.
Paine’s use of style elements and rhetorical strategies assist in enhancing his message that he wants the American populous to agree with. When a writer is able to use a variety of sentence lengths and structures, easily understood words, and figurative language the writing becomes more interesting and gives an advantage to the writer. Paine’s serious tone also helped him spread his message of the American crisis in a meaningful method.