Thoreau Civil Disobedience Rhetorical Analysis

Submitted By kepapolice
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In “Civil Disobedience”, Thoreau criticizes not only a useless government but also incompetent citizens who sit idly by while the government does as it pleases. Thoreau’s direct piece calls for inherent human action to comply with the intelligence of man to stand against an unfitting government.
Thoreau’s analysis of government and the way its run sets the stage for his argument. He criticizes the dwindling integrity of “the government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will”. The role and responsibility that the American government takes on is a waste as that “government is best, which governs least.” Thoreau immediately establishes his belief that the well being of our country and of us, should lie in our own hands. Though Thoreau establishes himself as a “no-government man” as he thinks that “we should be men first and subjects afterward”, he acknowledges the importance of self-governing as a path toward an unselfish administration. Thoreau calls for action by establishing his credibility as an honorable and passionate citizen whose “obligation, which [he] has a right to assume, is to do at any time what [he] think right”. Thoreau demands for unequivocal leadership not the kind of “political organization” who’s “my government, which is the slave’s also.”
Thoreau places elements of his argument where he chooses. He strategically places his piece on voting to bring attention to its fundamental nature; it is no more than an inadequate power tool for the citizen’s use. Instead of this argument following paragraph 19 as an example of what the “State has provided for remedying evil”, Thoreau reminds his readers that voting is not a remedy, voting, itself, is a key part of the problem. “A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of majority.” Thoreau places an importance in individual protection and views voting as an ineffective way to honor the individual voice.
Thoreau structures his argument so that he appears to surpass government authority. He holds his stance as he attacks the nature of government, the nature of government tools, and the nature of government decisions. He uses allusion and narrative to clearly criticize a lacking American government. His jail story and later attack on Webster are both used to further discredit the government. By places his attack on Webster near the end of his essay, Thoreau’s…