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Civil Disobedience exposes the mind to the idea of prioritizing laws. Refusing to obey the laws and demands of the government. It heavily criticizes the American institution of government at the time and is also defined as a text to live by. It is also influenced Romanticism, the idea of individualism. He was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist.
He was outspoken against slavery and American imperialism. He was truly disgusted with the American government. As a result, he refused to pay his poll taxes in He had to spend a night in jail for his actions. However, he was released from jail the next morning when a friend paid his taxes. In the same year, he gave lectures in schools in Concord, Massachusetts. These lectures formed the base of his published essay Resistance to Civil Government.
The word "Resistance" from the title was apt for Thoreau's metaphor of comparing the government to a machine. According to him, if the machine is producing injustice, citizens should work as a resistance to stop the machine.
The essay was reprinted in , four years after Thoreau's death, in the collection of his work named A Yankee in Canada: With Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers. The essay was printed with a new title called Civil Disobedience. The essay primary deals with slavery crisis in America in the s and s. It also condemns the Mexican-American war. Let us find out more about it.
He speaks favorably about a government that does not intrude in citizens' lives. The government is chosen by people to achieve certain ends. According to Thoreau, it is in existence to execute citizens' will. It exists to ensure an individual's freedom. However, it is prone to be misused. Thoreau gives examples of slavery practice and the Mexican-American war to establish his point further. He asserts that the government itself becomes an obstacle between achieving its purpose, the purpose for which it was created.
He did not believe that there should be no government at all. He believed that if the government fails to improve, people should not support it. According to Thoreau, a person cannot accept the government's authority unquestioningly.
To establish this thought, he compares the government with a machine. As a machine, the government may not do a good job in producing justice. Instead, it might produce injustice only. He encourages people be a counter friction or a resistance to stop such a machine. He believes that mere expression of objection is not enough; it requires action. Thoreau asserts that an individual must not support the government structure.
An individual must act with principle and break the law if necessary. He recalls the time when he was imprisoned for non-payment of taxes on his part. With his own example, he establishes that non-payment of taxes is a means to withdraw support from the government. It constitutes "peaceable revolution.
Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" Summary and Analysis Bookmark this page Manage My Reading List Having spent one night in jail in July of for refusal to pay his poll tax in protest against slavery and the Mexican War, Thoreau lectured before the Concord Lyceum in January of on the subject "On the Relation of the Individual to the State.".
Civil Disobedience covers several topics, and Thoreau intersperses poetry and social commentary throughout. For purposes of clarity and readability, the essay has been divided into three sections here, though Thoreau himself made no such divisions.
Video: Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience: Summary and Analysis Henry David Thoreau wrote the essay Civil Disobedience to show his opposition to slavery and American imperialism. His essay has influenced many prominent civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil Disobedience study guide contains a biography of Henry David Thoreau, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
Civil Disobedience Civil disobedience is defined as the refusal to obey certain laws or governmental demands for the purpose of influencing legislation or government policy. It is characterized by the employment of nonviolent techniques such as boycotting, picketing, and nonpayment of taxes. Directions: Read “Civil Disobedience.” As you read, underline examples of Thoreau using rhetorical devices and identify and explain the devices via annotation. Answer questions to prepare for further work with a small group.