I’m only asking you to read two things this week because what I’m asking you to read needs to have its own section–they’re that important, and they go together well–they mark the part of Thoreau that many people call the -real- Thoreau, that is the Thoreau most interested in politics and governmental policy. These two readings are, in my opinion, the most important pieces of writing we will be reading this semester; and they are two of the most longstanding texts from the Transcendentalist era. Many of you have probably already read them (or at least the first one), but even if you have you need to read it again. They are so amazing, so beautifully written, and so so so relevant. The first is Henry David Thoreau’s -Resistance to Civil Government,- otherwise known as -Civil Disobedience.- It is the text that inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. to write -A Letter from a Birmingham Jail- and it also inspired Gandhi in his quest for a revolution. It is incredibly powerful. The second is -A Plea for Captain John Brown-. So please read it carefully and I will be back soon with your FINAL writing assignment.
Please note that the differences between the two texts. The first one, -Civil Disobedience,- calls for just that–disobedience in a civil manner. The second one, about John Brown, is VASTLY different in tone, scope, philosophy. You would be well served to do some research on John Brown. He is an incredibly important figure in American history, and has been (in some circles) cited as the reason the Civil War began.
In a 5-6 page paper (double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt. font, 1- margins all around), I want you to write a paper that discusses the changes of philosophy that Thoreau went through between the time he wrote -Resistance to Civil Government- and -A Plea for Captain John Brown.- As you know, the former essay is contextualized around passivity while the latter essay is contextualized around aggression (In -John Brown- Thoreau, some have said, argues for the morality of murder). Why, in your opinion, did Thoreau go through such a dramatic change? Use both of these essays to help argue your point(s), and discuss the specifics of both–that is, did the happenings in the first essay deserve passivity, and did the happenings in the second essay deserve aggression? Why? What was happing in America that made Thoreau act as the social activist in these specific, and differing ways?
Be very, very specific. The more specific and detailed the better.
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