Note how Thoreau qualifies his argument in paragraph 40 of "Civil Disobedience"; how does using this rhetorical strategy serve his purpose?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the beginning portion of "Civil Disobedience," Thoreau criticizes the nature of the government and how it serves to rob citizens of their voice rather than to offer them a true democratic system.  Thoreau is aware that his ideas may offend readers, and he does not want to lose his credibility by potentially being labeled as a trouble-maker, so he alters his rhetoric at this point to show his willingness to be a part of the government.  Thoreau says, "I am but too ready to conform to them," meaning that if governmental laws were truly created by the people, then he would happy submit to them.  Later in the paragraph, Thoreau employs a rhetorical question after he has asked the reader to view the government not just from a close-up lens, but from one far removed--the suggestion is that surely from a more objective standpoint, one could see the problems with the government as it is.

annieb5 | Student

In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau argues for acts of civil disobedience: disobeying the government with the intent of changing an unjust law. In paragraph 40, Thoreau says that he doesn't want to "quarrel with any man or nation... or set [himself] up as better than [his] neighbor." By saying that he is not better than his neighbor, he creates a humble ethos. By saying that he does not want to argue, he sets up an ethos of agreableness and reasonableness. Perhaps most importantly, he associates not "wanting" to disobey, but having a duty to do so, with being patriotic. Essentially, this paragraph is an appeal to ethos: he presents himself as an unassuming, concerned patriot who wants to help his country.

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Civil Disobedience

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