Common Sense

by

Thomas Paine

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Parent and Child Symbol Analysis

Parent and Child Symbol Icon

Paine uses the symbolism of parent and child to argue that America has outgrown its dependence on Great Britain and should seek independence. For example, he argues that delayed independence keeps America in a state of perpetual childhood: “we may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat[.]” In this sense, he encourages his readers to be courageous and optimistic about independence, rather than fearing America’s failure without its current ties to Britain. Paine also uses the metaphor of parenthood to argue that England has forfeited any respect it was owed as “mother” by acting oppressively toward its colonial “child.” Finally, he uses the “child” metaphor in a more positive sense by suggesting that America should take advantage of its youthful vigor in order to cultivate healthy habits of nationhood: “youth is the seed time of good habits […] a memorable aera for posterity to glory in.” In contrast to the heredity monarchy of Great Britain, what Paine portrays as an antiquated system, he encourages his readers to think of America as young and vital in its ability to be molded into a fair representative democracy.

Parent and Child Quotes in Common Sense

The Common Sense quotes below all refer to the symbol of Parent and Child. 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:
The Role of Government Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of Common Sense published in 2016.
3. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs Quotes

We may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat, or that the first twenty years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty. But even this is admitting more than is true, for I answer roundly, that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had any thing to do with her. The commerce, by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Related Symbols: Parent and Child
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.

Related Characters: Thomas Paine (speaker)
Related Symbols: Parent and Child
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
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Parent and Child Symbol Timeline in Common Sense

The timeline below shows where the symbol Parent and Child appears in Common Sense. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
3. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs
Independence vs. Dependence Theme Icon
...a fallacious argument, Paine says. It makes as much sense as saying that because a child has thrived on milk, he should never be given meat. (full context)
Independence vs. Dependence Theme Icon
Reason, Morality, and Rhetoric Theme Icon
Some also argue that Britain is America’s “parent country.” Paine argues that the King exploits this phrase in order to prey on weak... (full context)