Amusing Ourselves to Death

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Thomas Paine’s Common Sense Symbol Analysis

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense  Symbol Icon

Postman believes that the wide circulation of Thomas Paine’s famous 1776 pamphlet (an argument for American freedom from the British monarchy) is a symbol of the strength of print culture in America’s foundational period. The popularity of Common Sense indicated a desire to know things through reason and to engage in meaningful, lengthy discourses about issues most relevant to the American public. This also demonstrated that America was enjoying a true age of reason and enlightenment. For Postman, Common Sense is most potent as a symbol when we consider the impossibility of an argumentative pamphlet having such an impact in 20th century society. Thus Common Sense is an aptly titled stand-in for what we used to have, and for what we’ve lost in the rise of the Age of Show Business.

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Thomas Paine’s Common Sense Symbol Timeline in Amusing Ourselves to Death

The timeline below shows where the symbol Thomas Paine’s Common Sense appears in Amusing Ourselves to Death. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: Typographic America
Typography vs. Image Theme Icon
The History of Public Discourse and Media Theme Icon
...a particularly telling example of Colonial America’s literacy is the distribution of Thomas Paine’s tract Common Sense. (full context)
Form and Content Theme Icon
Typography vs. Image Theme Icon
The History of Public Discourse and Media Theme Icon
News and Entertainment Theme Icon
Progress, Prediction, and the Unforeseen Future Theme Icon
Common Sense sold over 100,000 copies in the space of just a few months, and the total... (full context)