What is the tone of Thoreau's Civil Disobedience?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If "tone" can be seen as "the attitude an author takes towards the work," then I think that Thoreau hits a very defiant tone in Civil Disobedience. This level of defiance can be seen in how Thoreau saw his writing as a response to the clamor as to why he refused to pay taxes to a government advocating the Mexican- American War.  I think that this tone is evident in how Thoreau argues the need for individual action to heed to a higher law, at times, when there is obvious conflict with human law.  Thoreau is passionate about this more transcendent realm of justice and in doing so, his tone is firm and defiant in how individuals must aspire to this realm and not capitulate to what the Status Quo is.  This brings out a larger issue in the writing which is that individuals must appropriate a point of view that seeks to transform and change what is into what should be.  Such a task necessitates a tone of defiance and clarity in its call to action.  The advocacy of resistance demands a tone of defiance to what he writes and to the manner in which it is presented.  I think that this is the reason why this tone is so evident in Thoreau's work.


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