Civil Disobedience Analysis

1305 words - 6 pages

Government exists to serve the people yet many of its practices are intolerable when viewed through one's conscience. Henry David Thoreau argues in his "Civil Disobedience" that an individual should exercise his right to revolt against unjust laws and should abide by the rules of his conscience. Through the use of rhetorical strategies and a logical argument, Thoreau appeals to the individual, urging him to rise against unfair laws and stand up for the universal right. Thoreau constructs his argument to stress the importance of an individual's ethics and morals, while ridiculing government and those who support it.Thoreau expresses his disdain toward unfair government by providing logi ...view middle of the document...

These men, such as the "militia, jailers, constables," labor for their government without a question about whether what they do can be justified morally. The word "machine" implies that they labor only physically without any thought and yet are recognized as "good citizens". They do use their use their brain to really take a look at what they do but just follow the rules like obedient children in front of their more powerful parents. Thoreau also declares that it is because of this accepting and very passive society that government continues to rule unjustly. Furthermore, Thoreau undermines the authority of prison punishment declaring that "under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also prison" (233). He suggests that a person must completely stop supporting the government even if it results in prison. Through his declarative sentence he implies his own simple truth: it is better to be a victim of injustice that to commit that same injustice. By experiencing injustice an individual can empathize with those who face it and can have a stronger case against it. He also mocks the government implying that if it puts an honorable and righteous man in prison what kind of government is it? Thoreau suggests that in order to stay true to one's conscience an individual must not fret about going through suffering if they intend to achieve a good cause while the government that makes them suffer is not human and therefore does not have a conscience. Thus he emphasizes the prevalence of conscience rather than "blind" obedience to the government.While criticizing government Thoreau also mocks those who hypocritically support the government, thus elevating the idea of individualism. Thoreau declares that because "a wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance" (229) neither should any other person. Through the use of an aphorism Thoreau appeals to the reader's intelligence and logic. Just because a minority votes for the right thing it does not mean that it will definitely succeed. Voting is a delusion of power that causes a man to believe he can make a difference through a piece of paper. However, according to Thoreau a "wise" man will do more than just vote. It remains his duty and obligation to speak up and embody the individual with the honorable conscience. A truly "wise" man will not simply express his opinion but act on what is fair without the permission or approval of the majority. Thoreau argues that voting for the right thing will not always prevail because the majority will vote for what is advantageous to them, not what is essentially right, but a wise man will use his conscience and not adhere to ...

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