Thoreau as an Emersonian non-conformist

A nonconformist is someone who does not act or walk in alignment with the generally accepted beliefs of mainstream society. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) is a non-conformist essayist, as his writings say so. 

More Notes: Civil Disobedience

In “Civil Disobedience,” Thoreau condemns people’s desire to go along with what the government tells them to do. He also encourages people to do their own thing. He utters, 

I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.”

One of the practices he goes after is voting.  He sees it as an act of vanity. To prove this, we can cite one of his quotations, 

Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it.”

He likes individual work more.  He also discounts the practice of majority rule.  Each of us has higher laws to live by and guide our behavior. Just because these don’t match those most citizens maintain doesn’t make us inherently wrong or wrong.

Too many “unjust laws” are on the books, he says; and the only way the government has to deal with people who challenge these laws is to arrest them and put them in jail. There should be another alternative for such challenges. He spent one night in the Middlesex County jail in Concord because he hadn’t paid the mandatory poll tax. He describes that experience here. In this way, Thoreau is a non-conformist. 

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

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

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