Civil Disobedience Rhetoric

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Historian, Henry David Thoreau, in his essay, Civil Disobedience, exploits the influence that corrupt government has on Americans. Thoreau’s purpose is to point out the government’s flaws. He adopts a defiant tone in order to expose the wrongs of the government to the American people. Thoreau begins his essay by identifying statements he believes in such as, "That government is best which governs least,” and "That government is best which governs not at all.” He appeals to resentful emotions by stating, “Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.” He writes about his resentment in order to …show more content…

He criticizes citizens be stating that some citizens were “opposed to slavery and to the war, who yet in effect do nothing to put an end to them.” He critiques the citizens in order to ridicule them, so that they might fight back because Thoreau believes that the most some citizens will do to state their opinion is merely, “give only a cheap vote.” This critical tone from the essayist hopefully will persuade people to speak their mind more. Thoreau closes his essay by posing a series of rhetorical questions that will hopefully motivate the citizens to become not only self-reliant, but also become more politically aware. He affirms his thought that the people should be more sovereign by stating that government “can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. “ He reflects on his thought for less government in order to establish his final plea towards citizens. The outpourings of pleas convey an urgent tone that if the current generation does not act upon the pressing government, then no one will. In closing, Thoreau’s pointing out of American governmental flaws will hopefully inspire citizens to become more freethinking and less dependent on a corrupt system of government. His adopted defiant tone and diction has been a basis for many rebellions, revolts, and protests, and his essay is one that will never be

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