Henry David Thoreau 's Argument On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience Essay

Henry David Thoreau 's Argument On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience Essay

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When it comes to civil rights, there are two pieces of literature commonly discussed. One of these pieces is Henry David Thoreau’s persuasive lecture On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. In this work, Thoreau discusses how one must combat the government with disobedience of unjust laws and positive friction to create change. The second piece is the commonly known article Letter From a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. This letter covers the ways in which peaceful protest and standing up against injustice can lead to positive results. Both pieces conveyed a similar message of standing up for what is right. The strongest rhetorical methods which Thoreau uses are allusions, logos, ethos and rhetorical questions. However, King’s use of connectable allusions, pathos, more ethos, and aphorisms make his piece more effective than Henry David Thoreau’s.
Overall, both pieces had the purpose of bringing arise to social change. Thoreau’s piece was written prior to the civil war, and was in response to the Mexican-American war and slavery in some territories. It was intended for US citizens; more specifically, those who are unhappy with the way the United States government is ran. Thoreau spent a night in jail for his belief when he refused to pay a poll tax, which is a main point in his piece. Similarly, King’s piece was written during the civil rights movement in response to him being incarcerated for ‘parading without a permit’, and countless other racially based incidents. After being arrested, King read a newspaper article, by 7 priests and 2 rabbis, that asked African Americans to stop their protests, so he wrote back to them stating his point of view. Both pieces of work are highly regarded to this day.
King’s use of allusi...

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...r -or listener in the case of the original lecture- may just skim past them. In this scenario, it would make no difference if some of these short statements were taken out all together. Ignorance of aphorisms does not occur when reading King’s letter. His aphorisms stick out boldly in the midst of his sentences, and the reader definitely pays more attention than normal when they see one.
In final analysis, King does a far better job at conveying his message and convincing the reader of his purpose than Thoreau does. Both present a strong argument, but King’s use of allusions, pathos, ethos, and aphorisms lead to his piece being more effective than Thoreau’s use of allusions, logos, ethos, and aphorisms. King’s article he wrote while in jail not only helped tremendously in the fight for equal rights, but it will go down in history as one of the best works of all time.

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