Civil Disobedience Key facts and Summary

Writer: Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) An American naturalist.

Originally published: 1849

Major Themes:

1. Civil Government and Higher Law

2. Government and the Individual

3. Materialism and the Simple Life


Today we will know and analyze the summary of civil disputes in detail. civil Disobedience is written by Henry David Thoreau. Mainly Pan is used here.

In fact, it is nothing but a kind of literary device that is pronounced in English as Pun. Pan is a literary technique in which certain words or phrases are cleverly used, and those words or phrases can have multiple meanings even though they are pronounced the same. The author basically talks about a few things here, one of which is: What should be the government of a country or what should be the functioning of the government Voting system is the right of the people to protest the struggle or the government and peaceful revolution.

Civil Disobedience- This title basically refers to civil disobedience societies or pressure groups as we more or less know them. Desh Obedience means disobedience. A pressure group is when the government is disaffected or disobedient to change. Many prominent politicians of the Indian subcontinent were influenced by this text. David Thoreau, the author of Civil Dissent, gave an early conception of government. According to him, the best government is the government that rules the least. He also said that the best government for the people is a government that never rules. By rule here it is meant that the government is not a ruling group but an intermediary body between the people who will work for the people. Whether the people get the best government depends entirely on whether the people deserve such a government.

That is, the government will be such that the overall activities of the country will depend on the people and the people will implement those activities through their elected government. When the American-Mexican War broke out in 1948, he stood alone against the war. One manifestation of his defiance was non-payment of taxes and he himself expressed his displeasure with the current government for non-payment of taxes. And for not paying this tax he was sent to jail for a night. His imprisonment was very transformative for his outlook. During his stay in the prison, he listened through the prison window to the conversations of the people in the residential areas outside and had a completely different view of the people outside than before.

We find in our surroundings that when informal discussions on political or other matters are carried on in the neighborhood tea shop or at home, the very details and truths emerge. David Thoreau heard just such talks while in prison and it completely changed his outlook. According to Henry David Thoreau, his imprisonment was not only a one-night imprisonment but he felt that he had traveled to a faraway land during this one night and gained many experiences and lessons which helped him change his outlook. It is not even the way he treated people before he got out of prison or the way people treated him after getting out of prison.

At that time there was a culture where people bowed their hands and bowed their hands to those who came out of prison. But after Henry David Thoreau got out of prison, nobody was doing much for him. While in prison he had a fellow inmate or neighbor who had to be imprisoned for setting fire to a grain field. After entering the prison, when the warden introduced him to his neighbor, the arsonist began to teach David Thoreau about the various rules of the prison, such as if any part of the morning breakfast was left, it could be eaten again at noon. Because food in prisons is so meager that leftovers from breakfast are used in the afternoon.

Moreover, after going to Kara Kara, he found that all the other inmates inside had created an environment of their own to chat and have fun and were all gossiping with each other. Here David Thoreau brings up another point of government that when the government is employed to punish or restrain him physically, the government should have thought that imprisoning a man does not imprison his mind. He had never seen the moon in the sky as beautifully as he could from the outside when he came to prison. Moreover, the government always wants to physically obstruct the citizens, but it never can and does not want to face the people or citizens’ sanity.

According to David Thoreau, when the government makes a law for a country, it is the responsibility and duty of every citizen of the country to follow it and show loyalty to it. But if that law goes against the people of the country or goes against morality, then it is not the responsibility and duty of the citizens to follow it.

If any such law is enacted, the people can face it in four ways which are:

  1. People can freely accept it
  2. Can try to fix it
  3. may reject that law altogether
  4. And finally, they can abide until that law is amended.

According to the author, there may be many inconsistencies with the government or in the interests of the law while enacting laws that are not completely binding on the people. If the law goes against morality, people can freely reject it and people have that right. He also said that in democratic countries, the party that is most powerful usually forms the government. But that doesn’t mean that what that party says is right or that they are on the right track. Through this, he placed morality and awareness above rules and laws. David Thoreau also criticized the voting system in his writings. According to him, the voting system of a country is like a game of dice. It depends a lot on luck and power. He has already said that it is natural for the party which is most powerful in a country to form the government. So it is not the case that a person who is morally strong will win the vote. Because the powerful parties always manage the voting system by showing their power without resorting to morality.

David Thoreau talks about rebellion and revolution. These are any people in a country can speak against the government and spark revolution. Every person of the country has this right. Here David Thoreau provides a reference to a famous quote by Pell. Pell in his book Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy said that when the government of a country is established in that country and it is not possible for the people to overthrow the government of that country, then the people should obey that government and obey all the orders and prohibitions of the government. Because that government then acts as a mediator of the people of that country. But David Thoreau vehemently protested his statement and said that how can a government which is itself inconsistent and preoccupied with moral positions act as a regulator of the people?

David Thoreau also criticized a country’s tax system and stated that the government imposes an immoral high tax burden on the people. As a result of this tax system, the rich classes of the country become richer and put a strain on the poor people, resulting in a financial crisis. So finally, David Thoreau actually gave his Civil Disobedience text as a speech. As we know earlier that he was in jail for a night for non-payment of taxes and that’s where his views came out through this speech.

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Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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