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Civil Disobedience Summary

A state cannot be absolutely free and enlightened until the government recognizes the importance of an individual. Thoreau's essay revolves around three main themes: i civil government vs. He uses logos, ethos, and pathos to explain and peruse the readers to support his ideas of the government. The essay explains to us the intentions and principles of the government. However, the principles turned into actions, which are called laws, are often unjust.

Unjust laws do not work for people, whether they are in majority or minority.

Civil Disobedience

To change unjust laws and the unjust government, people should stand up. It is every citizen's duty to resist unfairness shown by the government.

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Thoreau's thoughts were never restricted to the Massachusetts area. They spread across the world, inspired several movements, and influenced leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. Kennedy, etc.

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Thoreau's essay definitely brought about a change in the state of affairs to turn them into the world as we know it today. Share This. Boyle's Greasy Lake: Summary and Analysis. Types of Literature. Importance of Literature. Literary Devices.

Civil Disobedience Audiobook by Henry David Thoreau

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Analysis of Daffodils by William Wordsworth. Imagery Examples. Metaphor Examples in Literature. List of Literary Techniques. Elements of Literature. Colloquialism Examples in Literature. Anachronism Examples in Literature. Glossary of Literary Terms. Literature Review Format. Gothic Literature. Both Socrates and Thoreau were justified in their concerns about the government. It would have opened up to a permissive society where there is no order and no one cares what people do. When he talks of the people not needing a government, I feel that he is loosing practicality since for a government to run smoothly, there has to be set rules and repercussions for the lawbreakers.

Socrates takes sides with the government and gives us a picture of a state where the government takes center stage. According to Socrates, the government must be obeyed and the laws have to be followed to the later whether they are good or bad. Thoreau seeks to differ with Socrates saying that people do not have to submit to bad governance and they have every right to abscond what is not right. In his personal experience, Thoreau refused to pay poll tax as he personally felt that the government used the revenue to support the Mexican war and slave trade, which he was opposed to.

For this reason, he was incarcerated though he was released a day later as family members bailed him out. I feel that Socrates was more rational in his judgment about his government and all it needed was for the people to obey the laws it had laid down for them. In his views, Socrates felt that the government brought order and this in the long run translated to better and civilized lives for its people. Thoreau was more bent on individual success and advocated for individuality and in my view this philosophy would not have augured well with many loyal citizens of the state.

He kept seeing the government as a block to the success of its citizens through laws, which he termed, as infringements. For him to advocate that people do what is right is immoral in the sense that not all what seems right to us is right for everyone. For instance, someone would feel that acts of terrorism are okay and go ahead to implement it because it is what he wants to do and believes that it is right to him. In my opinion, this is utterly ridiculous because we live in a diverse world which has become a melting pot for all cultures.

We therefore have to be governed by laws that dictate how we conduct ourselves to avert such commotions, which would result from a permissive society.

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  • SparkNotes: Civil Disobedience: Section One.

Both Socrates and Thoreau had strong thesis on what an ideal people-government relationship should be like. They however had their shortcomings in either way, as some were too extreme and other just ridiculous.


We see that Socrates worst fear was what the society would say and he could not stand shame and dishonor. The rebellious Thoreau feared no societal criticism and all he cared about was what he felt was right for him. They both ended up in jail as punishment for their misdeeds and the irony is overwhelming. Socrates was however more practical as compared to Thoreau who gave ideas of a lawless society which would have caused more harm than good.

McElroy, W. Henry Thoreau and civil disobedience. Future of freedom Foundation. But Thoreau said they must do more than to dislike these things, or to vote against these things, or to hope these things will end.

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They must also stop supporting these things by paying taxes. If the government puts you in prison because you do not pay taxes, then it is good to be in prison because, if the government is bad, prison is the right place for good people. If the government attempted to put all good people in prison, the government would end first, and this would be a revolution of peace.

It is easier to be brave if you have less that the government can take from you. So Thoreau suggests that people own less, and that they value what is good and not value property only. He said that Civil Disobedience was the largest cause for the end of slavery in America, and that Indians in South Africa should learn from that example.

Martin Luther King, Jr. In his autobiography , he wrote that Thoreau taught him that it is as important not to help bad people as it is to help good people. He said that Thoreau's lessons "came alive" in the civil rights movement. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Civil Disobedience.

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