“On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”, Thoreau Name:______________________

1. In paragraph 1, what distinction does Henry David Thoreau make between the government and the people Why does he begin the essay this way? Why does Thoreau not begin the essay with his stay in jail?

2. Why does Thoreau refer to civil disobedience not merely as a right but as a duty? 3. Tone is the speakers attitude towards the subject or audience. Describe the tone Thoreau establishes in paragraph 2. 4. What are the two government policies Thoreau most objects to? Explain his objection. 5. In paragraph 20, Thoreau states that “any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already.” What does he mean by this? How does this support his thesis?

6. In paragraph 36, Thoreau distinguishes among different types of taxes. Why? 7. What is the effect of the metaphor about friction in paragraph 8? 8 One characteristic of Thoreau’s style is aphorism. An aphorism is a short astute statement of a general truth. For example, in paragraph 4, he writes, “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.” Find other examples of Thoreau’s aphorisms. You might find some in paragraphs 9-10 and 20-22. What is the rhetorical effect of such statements?

9. Writers persuade the audience by appealing to ethos, logos, and pathos. Which of the three classic appeals dominates in paragraph 21, where Thoreau gives the government a human face? Defend your answer.

10. Under the circumstances Thoreau describes, is civil disobedience a duty, as he says? Explain how Thoreau’s essay speaks to our own time. Is the essay dated? Is it still relevant?

© Paideia Academy, English Language and Composition, Mrs. Brenda Sain

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