The Tipping Point

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Paul Revere’s ride Symbol Analysis

Paul Revere’s ride Symbol Icon

Another symbol that Gladwell refers to again and again is Paul Revere’s famous “midnight ride” of 1775, during which Revere was able to warn thousands of people throughout Massachusetts about the impending invasion of British troops. For Gladwell, Revere’s ride is a particularly clear example, and arguably a symbol, of how individual people can start social epidemics. Using the book’s terminology, it could be argued that Revere acted as a “Connector,” a “Maven,” and even a “Salesman,” inspiring people throughout his state to fight against the British forces.

Paul Revere’s ride Quotes in The Tipping Point

The The Tipping Point quotes below all refer to the symbol of Paul Revere’s ride. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tipping Points and the Importance of Small Changes Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Back Bay Books edition of The Tipping Point published in 2002.
Chapter Two Quotes

But William Dawes? Fischer finds it inconceivable that Dawes could have ridden all seventeen miles to Lexington and not spoken to anyone along the way. But he clearly had none of the social gifts of Revere, because there is almost no record of anyone who remembers him that night.

Related Characters: Paul Revere, William Dawes
Related Symbols: Paul Revere’s ride
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Gladwell turns his attention to Paul Revere’s famous “midnight ride” of 1775. On this night, Revere received word that the British were coming to invade Massachusetts; in response, he rode his horse across the state, warning hundreds of people about the impending danger. Revere, Gladwell argues, was a textbook Connector: he had a huge number of friends, and he was a naturally gregarious person who enjoyed meeting new people.

Paul Revere’s ride is a particularly clear example of the “Law of the Few” in social epidemics, because there were also other people, such as William Dawes, spreading the message that the British were coming. In this way, Paul Revere’s ride is a kind of historical “experiment,” in which Gladwell can test the relationship between an independent variable (personality type or gregariousness) and a dependent variable (the speed at which information spreads). The fact that history remembers Paul Revere, not William Dawes, suggests that a few disproportionately social and gregarious people like Revere, rather than many ordinary people, are responsible for starting social trends.

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Paul Revere’s ride Symbol Timeline in The Tipping Point

The timeline below shows where the symbol Paul Revere’s ride appears in The Tipping Point. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter Two: The Law of the Few
Tipping Points and the Importance of Small Changes Theme Icon
Social Clout and “Word-of-Mouth” Theme Icon
...an impending invasion, but the boy’s story finally inspired him to begin his famous “midnight ride.” Revere rode a horse through Lexington and Arlington, warning of the British invasion. The news... (full context)
Tipping Points and the Importance of Small Changes Theme Icon
Social Clout and “Word-of-Mouth” Theme Icon
Paul Revere’s ride is one of the most famous examples of “word-of-mouth” in history. But why is it... (full context)
Tipping Points and the Importance of Small Changes Theme Icon
Social Clout and “Word-of-Mouth” Theme Icon
Gladwell returns to Paul Revere, whose midnight ride started what could be termed a “word-of-mouth” epidemic in 1775. Paul Revere was a natural... (full context)
Tipping Points and the Importance of Small Changes Theme Icon
Social Clout and “Word-of-Mouth” Theme Icon
Context versus Character Theme Icon
To return to 1775 one more time: we can now see that Paul Revere’s ride was a success for three different reasons. First, Paul Revere was a talented Maven, who... (full context)