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Civil Disobedience Essay

  • Submitted by: dblau
  • on February 23, 2011
  • Category: History
  • Length: 594 words

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Below is an essay on "Civil Disobedience" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

Civil Disobedience
Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience” (1849), argues that citizens of good conscience should actively oppose unjust government policies through nonviolent resistance. Thoreau does this by critically evaluating the federal government, using antithesis for comparisons, and appealing with ethos. Thoreau’s purpose is to show what is wrong in American society in order to show what can be done to fix these wrongs. Given the advanced diction used in this essay, Thoreau was aiming for an educated audience interested in hearing different ideas about what is flawed in America and how it can be resisted.
Thoreau’s essay on civil disobedience is a seminal work in the American literary canon, and it is clear that his treatise on concentrated, thoughtful resistance has been influential in subsequent social and political movements which themselves have been recorded by writers. One movement that was marked by its insistence on civil disobedience was the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The man was considered to be the leader of this movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., advocated the kind of peaceful but assertive resistance defined by Thoreau as civil disobedience. Dr. King’s strategy for political change was to plan, facilitate, and implement as many acts of resistance as possible while avoiding violence at all costs. Even more than Thoreau, it seems, King wanted the actions of civil rights activists to provoke thought, critical evaluation of the government and of society at large, and a radical change in government’s and society’s processes and treatment of marginalized minorities. While Thoreau seems to have been more of an individualist in his essay, calling upon each citizen who felt so compelled to determine and implement his own act of resistance, which need not necessarily be coordinated with someone else, King mastered the power of civil disobedience by creating a critical mass of individuals to band together as a show of...

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