A five-page, fill-in-the-blank activity which will give your students a thorough understanding of the historical background, the major ideas, and the rhetorical strategies of “The American Crisis: Number 1,” a brilliant essay which famously showed that in the early days of the American Revolution Thomas Paine’s “pen” was mightier than George Washington’s “sword.”
Particularly valuable to your pupils will be the activities on the following rhetorical strategies: dramatic opening; the good us vs. the evil them (no middle ground); praise of our heroic leader; fixation on a scapegoat; appeal to God; name-calling; loaded definition; the animal-like viciousness of our enemy and contrastively our humanity; and fear-arousing appeals.
Since some of these are logically questionable tactics, this activity should show students what to do and what not to do in writing their argumentative essays and how to judge TV and print commentaries on current polemic issues.
Paine’s masterful use of the following literary devices is also analyzed: metaphor, irony, alliteration, and consonance.
An Answer Key is provided on separate pages. Also appended are some historical and stylistic notes not found in the student handout. You can select which of these items, if any, to incorporate into your classroom.
The student handout is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.