Civil Disobedience Questions and Answers
by Henry David Thoreau

Civil Disobedience book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In paragraph 1, why does Thoreau begin his essay with the distinction between the government and the people?

Expert Answers info

Ellen Heath eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write191 answers

starTop subject is Literature

A recurrent theme throughout Henry David Thoreau’s work is independent thought and action. In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau explores the many ways in which the laws of the government must be broken in order to maintain a functioning and moral society. Thoreau writes,

The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.

The people, collective individuals, have formed this government so that their ideas may be heard—yet it is so easy to manipulate the government, because it no longer consists of those individuals. The government is made up of people who, once elected, have the ability and authority to make selfish decisions, enact laws which do not serve the people as a whole, and make mistakes. Instead of following everything the government decrees, each individual must maintain their own thinking and, when necessary, act upon their beliefs instead of the will of...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 630 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

calendarEducator since 2016

write7,361 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mwestwood, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

bookM.A. from The University of Alabama

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,150 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial