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"Civil Disobedience": First Step to Individualism

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Disobedience happens when contrast between one’s inner beliefs and society’s norms collide. However, it can be seen as a starting act for an individual. A start of an action which has its alliance with Emerson’s Transcendentalism. Such transcendentalism in America gradually, allows separation towards the individual from the community and stresses a man to think in a present continuous matter. Ultimately this leads to the ability to choose, a Holy Grail perhaps to take on within one’s life. As it is highlighting how seeking a choice grants authority to the self, it brings an individual to a powerful state.

In “Civil Disobedience” for example, as such individual estranges oneself from an unjust community that acquiesce to slavery and moreover Mexican war, it sheds light to the realization of the tyranny a majority consists. Indeed, to Thoreau, the prevalent agenda coming from the majority, especially from an unjust government, was seen to engulf the individual rights and liberation which climactically led to one’s conformity. In order to change this, his words deliver a preferable, good leeway which shifts from the existing thoughts the era inevitably had. Such an example would be “They take too much time, and a man’s life will be gone. Note I have other affairs to attend to. I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad. A man has not everything to do, but something; and because he cannot do everything, it is not necessary that he should be petitioning the Governor or the Legislature. . . its very Constitution is the evil” Thoreau’s argumentative tone uses the personal pronoun “I”.

As the reading develops “I” continuously represents the importance and significance in Thoreau’s (who is an individual) claim and thought. Such personal pronoun then echoes his message in the significance of voice and authority of an individual. Hence, a grave act to “make” the world a “good place to live in” is condemned as it is an act for the change in the outer, communal realm. This loses focus on the individual who simply, merely wishes to “live in it”. Therefore, by saying such words, it mobilizes each reader that they too have the significant choice not to “do everything” which is seemingly crafted by one’s undesirable majority. It delivers a choice that a person may simply live whether “be it good or bad”. It is a starting point of an individualism which concentrates on the stage of personal realm and messages the Americans of the 19th century a choice that they too could perceive.

Furthermore, the communal “they” describes democracy’s voting system. Thus, it is criticizing how social compliance, or perhaps the sole system dictated by a majority, not only consumes inefficient time towards the individual but leads to a betterment of the undesirable government. This sentence also reflects more substantial gravity in one’s life than a communal deed.

Thoreau concludes this as he pinpoints that “Constitution is the evil”. “Evil” is dramatic, somewhat subjective, but very effective in portraying his dichotomous thoughts. The opposite of such “evil” signifies an active, “choice-sensitive” individual identity that rings as an ideal of America then, and today. Hence, what may have been treated as Thoreau’s personal rant was accepted by the people and further embodied towards an American ideal. During an era of slavery and especially of Mexican war, “Civil Disobedience” opportunely focused a shift in whatever acceptance from the outer realm to the inner activity of choice. It was timely to question the people what one may initially do, act, or choose.

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“Civil Disobedience”: First Step to Individualism. (2020, July 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 1, 2021, from
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