Civil Disobedience Questions and Answers
by Henry David Thoreau

Civil Disobedience book cover
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I need explanation on Civil Disobedience because I am unclear on it.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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You might need to be a bit more specific as to where exactly your lack of clarity lies.  Thoreau was a part of the Transcendentalist movement in American History.  He believed that individuals needed to do a better job of hearing their own hearts and passions in daily life.  The political extension of this is the notion of civil disobedience, taking a passionate and personal stand when government or society is wrong.  For Thoreau, if individuals do not actively speak out when they feel government is wrong, they do not show the appropriate respect to their emotional frame of reference.  Since Thoreau feels that individuals commitment and emotions are the most important elements in one's state of being, to speak one's mind, regardless of the consequences, is the highest and most transcendental form of being in the world represented.  For example, when Thoreau disagrees with the Mexican- American War as a form of political conquest and territorial expansion, he is willing to stand for his beliefs, including going to jail in refusal to pay taxes to support the war.  This is an example of the concept of civil disobedience and one that helps to bring out the meaning of the work in full form.

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