Themes and style of the essay civil Disobedience 


“Civil Disobedience” is an essay written by Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) in 1849. The essay is centered on the concept of civil disobedience and explores the theme of individual resistance to unjust government actions. Here are the main themes of the essay:


1. The Importance of Individual Conscience

Thoreau believed that individuals have a responsibility to act on their conscience and to resist unjust laws. He argued that people should not blindly follow the law without questioning its morality. He believed that individuals have a duty to act according to their own conscience and to resist injustice even if it means breaking the law.

2. The Relationship between the Individual and the State

Thoreau argued that the government is only legitimate when it represents the will of the people. He believed that the individual should not be subservient to the state and that the government should serve the people rather than the other way around. He also believed that individuals have the right to rebel against an unjust government. He says,

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison”

3. Non-Violent Resistance

Thoreau was a strong advocate for non-violent resistance as a means of protesting against unjust laws. He believed that non-violent resistance was a powerful tool that could be used to bring about social change. He argued that non-violent resistance was morally superior to violent resistance and that it was more effective in achieving lasting change.

4. The Importance of Nature

Thoreau believed that nature had a profound influence on the individual and that spending time in nature was essential for spiritual and emotional well-being. He believed that nature was a source of wisdom and that it could inspire people to live more fulfilling lives. He also believed that the destruction of nature was a symptom of a deeper societal problem.

5. Self-Reliance

Thoreau believed in the importance of self-reliance and individualism. He believed that people should be self-sufficient and not rely on others for their needs. He also believed that people should be true to themselves and not conform to society’s expectations.


Styles of the essay civil Disobedience 

Thoreau’s writing style in this essay is often considered poetic and philosophical, with vivid and imaginative language that calls for action against injustice. Here are some of the styles of the essay Civil Disobedience:

1. Personal and reflective style: 

Thoreau uses a personal and reflective style in the essay, sharing his own experiences and insights on the topic of civil disobedience. He discusses his own decision to refuse to pay taxes to protest slavery and the Mexican-American War, and how this act of disobedience reflects his own values and beliefs.

2. Persuasive style:

Thoreau uses a persuasive style to argue for the importance of civil disobedience as a means of resistance against unjust laws. He uses rhetorical devices such as repetition and parallelism to emphasize his points and persuade the reader to take action against injustice.

3. Philosophical style:

Thoreau’s essay also has a philosophical style, as he reflects on the nature of government, the individual’s relationship to society, and the role of conscience in moral decision-making. He argues that individuals have a duty to follow their conscience, even if it means disobeying laws that they believe are unjust.

4. Literary style:

Thoreau’s writing in “Civil Disobedience” is often considered literary, with vivid imagery and powerful metaphors that help to convey his message. For example, he compares the government to a machine that can become corrupt and oppressive if not checked by the individual conscience.

5. Inspirational style:

Thoreau’s essay has an inspirational style, as he calls on readers to take action against injustice and to stand up for what they believe in. He encourages individuals to follow their own conscience and to resist unjust laws through nonviolent means.


“In conclusion, Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience” explores several themes and reveals his unique style. These themes and styles are still relevant today and continue to inspire people to challenge injustice and promote social change.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

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

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