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Rhetorical Techniques in Henry David Thoreau's 'Civil Disobedience'

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Near the beginning of his renowned essay, "Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau appeals to his fellow citizens when he says, "...I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government." This request serves as a starting point from which the rest of "Civil Disobedience" emerges. Thoreau 's essay is particularly compelling because of its incorporation of rhetorical strategies, including the use of logos, ethos, pathos, purposive discourse, rhetorical competence and identification. I will demonstrate how each of these rhetorical techniques benefit Thoreau 's persuasive argument. Thoreau uses logos throughout his essay to strengthen his argument with reasoning. He does so specifically with examples that resonate with the audience. For instance, as he attempts to persuade listeners to consider revolting against the government, he uses a real-life example: All men recognize... the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution Of '75... when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole…show more content…
Another compelling argument in "Civil Disobedience" is when Thoreau uses logos as a tool to compare his idea to an acclaimed scholar of the time, Paley. Instead of avoiding Paley 's popular argument altogether, he takes advantage of his argument and flips it to support his point. Not only does he provide sound reasoning for his opposing views, but he provides an example for which most people can relate: "If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself. This, according to Paley, would be inconvenient" (Thoreau). The simplicity of Thoreau 's words here serve to his advantage, as those with less political experience can connect with this straightforward, concise
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