Analysis Of Henry David Thoreau 's ' Walden ' Essays

Analysis Of Henry David Thoreau 's ' Walden ' Essays

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Henry David Thoreau was a mid-nineteenth century transcendentalist philosopher and writer. Thoreau is best remembered for his book “Walden”, detailing his simple life living by Walden Pond. His other most well-known work is “Civil Disobedience”, a philosophical, political piece concerning his views on 19th century America. A fervent pacifist, humanitarian and abolitionist, Thoreau stopped paying his poll taxes (a tax levied on all adults in a community) as a form of protest towards the government for the Mexican American War and slavery. After being imprisoned in July 1846 for not paying his taxes, Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience in response. The two main things that Thoreau argues for in “Civil Disobedience” are the idea of a limited government and the individual’s right to resist an unjust government. These two ideas weren’t only supported by Thoreau, but by other groups and individuals throughout history as well.
Thoreau begins his essay with the bold statement, “That government is best which governs least,” followed shortly by “That government is best which governs not at all.” Thoreau believed that the government was an unfair presence in the lives of American people. However, although those statements make it sound like he is calling for anarchy, Thoreau quickly revises his position saying, “I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government.” Thoreau states that the government could improve by better serving the interests of the minority, because “a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it.” Thoreau’s desire was, then, for a limited, moral government that men would respect. He wasn’t calling for the elimination of the government...


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...any throughout history shared Thoreau’s opinion, especially those who were on the receiving end of the government’s unjust practices. Thoreau felt that a better government was needed and I would argue, that his words are still relevant today. There is always room for the government to improve. Thoreau wanted a government that didn’t just look to the interests of the powerful majority, one in which individuals with consciences lead, instead of a collective power making decisions for the individuals. The people have the right to resist a government that isn’t serving them properly or is treating them unjustly, or is using their funding for immoral causes; in fact, it is the people’s duty to do so, for only through civil disobedience can the people simulate change. Only through a changed government, a better government, will the American people experience true freedom.

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