Martin Luther King Jr. versus Henry David Thoreau Essay

Martin Luther King Jr. versus Henry David Thoreau Essay

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Martin Luther King Jr. versus Henry David Thoreau
*Works Cited Not Included
There are times throughout the history of the United States when its citizens have felt the need to revolt against the government. Two such cases occurred during the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David Thoreau. Both men courageously confronted the mighty us government; both spent time in jail as a result of their defiant actions; both men stood for a belief in a better future, and both presented their dreams through non-violent protest and civil disobedience. The similarities in their course of action are undeniable, but each man used different terms on which they based their arguments. Martin Luther King Junior's appeal through the human conscience, and Henry Thoreau's excellent use of patriotism, present similar issues in very dissimilar ways.

King's letter, written while in jail, is in direct response to a letter written by a group of "fellow clergymen". His letter clearly and effectively responds to each of the five examples given by the clergymen. He opens his letter by recognizing that he believes their complaints to be "sincere" and of "genuine goodwill". The respect given to these men in the first few sentences immediately present King as a man of equal standards and beliefs. It also has a subtle and maybe subconscious affect as he asks for the same respect in return. The letter is noticeably divided into 6 major components. The first five sections are in direct response to the letter from the clergymen, and the last is his final plea for justice. He opens each section by conceding to the clergymen, and uses direct quotes from their letter to support is argument. Following this opening, he uses a...


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...remely convincing support, and each piece is successful in achieving their goal; but should we follow Thoreau and let the building turmoil lead to revolution? Or should we hearken to King and let it guide us to a better understanding of each other? Through our differences we can find a unity that is present among us all, but who will lead us to that glorious day?

"I please myself with imagining a State at least which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State…"

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