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An Analysis of Common Sense

As the year 1776 began in the American colonies, tension with King George III’s England was at perhaps an all-time high. Americans were frustrated with the actions of their rulers overseas. Taxes and trade restrictions had been placed on them, and British and mercenary soldiers occupied their towns and cities. There had even been fighting at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. As America grew, England’s hold on it tightened, and a few voices began speaking of independence. The loudest and most convincing of these belonged to Thomas Paine, born in England and living in Philadelphia. His pamphlet, Common Sense, expressed the argument for American independence in a way no one had before and had a great influence on the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Paine had only lived in America for two years when he began writing Common Sense, but that was enough for him to witness the oppression of the British. He had been dismissed as a tax collector in England after trying to win his fellow employees a raise in pay, and came to Philadelphia in 1774 with a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin, who had heard about his actions. He began writing his pamphlet in September of 1775, encouraged by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a friend who feared the consequences of publishing his own revolutionary essay (Smith 676). Rush warned Paine that Philadelphians were hostile to talk of a breakdown between Americans and the British. Even as the Continental Congress prepared for war, independence was still not talked about publicly. But Paine saw the emotions that had been aroused at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. He wrote all autumn, into December, periodically consulting with Rush.

The first part of Common Sense addresses …

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…to what it proclaimed as any other man. It was his words that sparked a continent of people with the idea of independence in their hearts. He told them, in a way no one else seemed to be able, that they could, and must, voice these ideas.

Works Consulted

Foner, Eric. “Tom Paine’s Republic.” In The American Revolution. Ed. Alfred F. Young.

DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976.

Keane, John. Tom Paine: A Political Life. Boston: Little, Brown,

An Analysis of Sunday Morning

An Analysis of Wallace Stevens’ Sunday Morning

“Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens is a poem about a woman having a late breakfast and thinking about the purpose of religion. Stevens wants the readers to ask themselves the questions that the woman asks, and to explore their feelings towards Christianity. He also wants to spark an awareness of nature. The first stanza asks the first tentative questions before launching into a racy debate in the later stanzas.

Stevens uses stanza I to set the scene for the rest of the poem. The first five lines describe that the main character, known simply as “She,” skipped church, “to dissipate the holy hush of ancient sacrifice,” and have a late breakfast described as “Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, / And the green freedom of a cockatoo”(lines 2-6). Line six announces the topic and mood of the poem. “She dreams a little, and she feels the dark / Encroachment of that old catastrophe” (lines 6-7). She begins to think about the purpose and significance of the Christian religion. In lines nine through eleven, Stevens shows how the oranges and cockatoo’s wings remind her of a “procession of the dead.” In the rest of the stanza, she drifts into a more serious examination of religion by referencing “the blood and sepulchre,” the crucifixion (line 15). This discussion leads into the next stanza which questions Christian tradition.

In stanza II, she questions the purpose of going to church and offering her earnings “Why should she give her bounty to the dead”(line 16). Steven proposes several unanswerable questions in this stanza: why give money to the deceased; why does God only visit in dreams; and can nothing on earth compare to heaven? In this stanza, S…

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…st three lines are very symbolic of what is to come for all things:

At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make

Ambiguous undulations as they sink.

Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Darkness in the context of this poem is death.

Stevens begins the poem with a woman skipping church and turns it into a discussion of the plausibility of an afterlife, religion, and the existence of souls. Stevens believes that we should look at nature and our earthly existence as a spiritual basis to measure our lives. He is also saying we should spend less time worrying about heaven, an afterlife, and following an organized religion. Mostly, he suggests that we should try to find paradise,or beauty, on earth.

Works Cited:

Stevens, Wallace. “Sunday Morning.” The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry. Editor: Jay Parini. Columbia University Press, 1995.

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