SOAPSTone

Apply the SOAPSTone analysis to “Civil Disobedience.”  Remember that SOAPSTone stands for Subject, Occasion, Audience, Speaker, and Tone.  Be sure to dig deeply into each element, discuss how the element contributes to how the essay was written, and how you know.  Especially pay attention to tone, noting specific passages and where it shifts.

You’ll get another essay on Thursday, and I’ll ask you to apply the same acronym to that essay on this thread.

Lead bloggers are the Pitcher group.  Lead bloggers should post by Thursday morning.  Everyone else should post by next Monday.

 

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62 Responses to SOAPSTone

  1. Subject: “Civil Disobedience” was an essay concerning Henry David Thoreau’s views on protesting the government through non-violent resistance. He thinks the government is a tool for people to utilize, not something that should control or dictate peoples’ lives. He also believes that the United States government, while admirable, must be improved. Decisions must not be made by the majority and the minority should be very prevalent in government’s actions, a reflection of Thoreau’s transcendentalist value of the importance of the individual. He also says that there are very few men with true virtue, and the government itself is devoid of virtue. Thoreau also emphasizes his disproval towards slavery and soldiers (who are, in his opinion, just moving objects who don’t think for themselves). Thoreau criticizes people who, even though they oppose something in theory, do nothing in protest and only vote for change. Voting is useless because it leaves the decision to the majority, which does not implement justice. Thoreau also talks about his time in jail and how useless the institution is. He finishes with by affirming that a truly just government will protect the rights and reflect the thoughts of the individual.

    Occasion: This was written during the war between the U.S. and Mexico, which occurred between 1846 and 1848 after the U.S. annexed Texas from Mexico. Thoreau was an avid critic of war and its injustices, and he protested it by refusing to pay a tax. He did not support the government’s actions, and therefore did not want to give it future support through his tax money. He was imprisoned for one day, and two years later wrote “Civil Disobedience.”

    Audience: Thoreau’s audience appears to be the common American people, especially people who discuss change, but don’t actively do anything. He says doing this is very destructive, and asks for a valid reason why they do so. He also explains why people should oppose the government through passive action.

    Purpose: Thoreau expresses that his aim in writing “Civil Disobedience” was to discover “an excuse for conforming to the laws of the land,” but he also advocates protesting the government in a non-violent way. Thoreau believes that doing nothing and only talking about abolishing evil is just as bad as encouraging that evil. He also writes that he does not “wish to quarrel with any man or nation,” but he continually attacks government and its oppressive evils throughout the text. Thoreau wants people to stand up and voice their individual opinions and accusations, not just leave the decision to a majority vote.

    Speaker: The author of this reading was Henry David Thoreau, an author, poet, and abolitionist who was born in Concord, MA. He also wrote Walden, which emphasized the importance of being close to nature and letting yourself dictate what your actions are, based on your own interpretation of right and wrong. He was a very important transcendentalist at the time, a movement that believed that there should be equality among all people, people should be open to new experiences and change, and that all knowledge comes from inside you. Transcendentalism was against conformity, slavery, and industrialism. Thoreau evidently supports this movement through his constant references to abolishing slavery and the importance of the individual throughout the text.

    Tone: Thoreau’s tone begins as accusing and critical, because he explains how the government does not protect liberty, educate, and that its laws do not bring about justice. He also criticizes how no one is a true “man” anymore, and how people only pretend to take opposition to unjust actions. He takes a mocking tone when discussing the jail, because he thinks people put in jail for protest have an even stronger voice and that he did not for a moment feel confined or punished during his stay in jail. Thoreau says that after emerging from jail, his opinion towards the state had changed even more and he had “lost all my remaining suspect for it, and pitied it.” His view of the people in the community changed as well, and he thinks that they, although caring, are misguided since they believe following the law will save them, further evidence of his mocking tone. However, he does take a more understanding tone when he writes about how he understands why people do not oppose the government. He finishes with a more hopeful tone as he expresses how he thinks the state will soon “take all my work of this sort out of my hands” and that he imagines a “a State at least which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect.”

    • linettedavis says:

      Pertaining to your “Subject” analysis: I got from the reading that Thoreau *doesn’t* like the minority elite government. He believes that although the elite are physically stronger, they are not necessarily smarter, and therefore should not be in such a position of power where they can make all the important decisions, because they might not always make the best decision. I do agree with what you said about his wanting an improved government, as this was established during class. He thinks that the government does not in fact keep this country free or educate it, but instead restricts the improvements that Americans might otherwise make. “The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.” The government serves as an obstacle for creativity.

      • Wait, what do you mean by a minority elite? I remember reading that he believed the majority to be detrimental, because the reason their decisions were enforced was that they had to power, not because they were right.

        • linettedavis says:

          I remember reading that he thought the small elite were not fit to make decisions for the whole nation because they were not necessarily the smartest men. I thought he was getting at the point that the governmental decisions should be made by the majority, so that they benefit all the people, not just the government. When a law only benefits the government, then people should break that law, such as when he did not pay the tax.

          • I found the passage, I had it highlighted on page 211:
            “…when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long time continue, to rule, is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based in justice.”

  2. shogann says:

    Subject: In this essay, “Civil Disobedience” Henry Thoreau writes about how the government is failing in some ways and how it can improve. He doesn’t believe that the government should be able to control his life. He is not completely against it but he believes that there is room for improvement. He also explains how there are men that can seem virtuous on the surface but on the inside they hold nothing of it. He thinks that people should take action instead of standing around. For example, he talks about how people are saying they do not like war and slavery but he doesn’t see anyone taking action in trying to help fix these occurring problems. I think that his writing is also trying to show that the government can be unfair. In this essay he is breaking down the rights and wrongs of the government and clarifying them. He is trying to explain to people that the government can be wrong and just because it is the federal government it doesn’t mean that everything they do is going to have a positive impact.
    Occasion: At the time this essay was written there was a war between Mexico and the U.S. Thoreau was put in jail for refusing to pay a tax that he thought supported the United States government. He thought that the war was unjust. He was then sent to prison for two years. After he was released from prison he wrote this essay as a protest.
    Audience: I think Thoreau’s audience would be the common people. The common people are directly affected by the government. This essay enables them to think in more ways about the government. It would especially be the people who find themselves interested in politics. It can relate to the people who think they have a say in government just by talking about it, but really they do not because they are not taking action.
    Purpose: Thoreau wrote this essay because he wanted to protest. He wanted to protest against the idea that the government had total control. He believed in individuality and that one should be able to do what they want with their life. He was trying to show that without violence there can still be a fight against government. He was extremely against war and this essay showed that he didn’t need war to oppose the government. He was showing people that another form of protest was writing and not just violence or anything that could turn into violence.
    Speaker: The author of this essay is Henry David Thoreau. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts and died there as well. He was an activist and a writer. He lived his life the way he wanted too, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” He believed in equality among everyone and individuality. He was against war and slavery. His views supported Transcendentalism.
    Tone: I think that Thoreau’s tone throughout this reading is one of disappointment. He is not impressed with the government and what is being done to try to fix it. He believes that there is room for much improvement in the government. He is trying to help people to stop being so strung up on following everything and believing in everything the government does. He knows what needs to be improved in the government and he is trying to explain that. He sets a tone of how people should now be moving forward and not staying in the past.

    • mgigliotti says:

      I agree with the tone that Thoreau sets that he is trying to get people to move forward and make progress. But I found that he was argumentative. I saw this in a good way. He was not extremely aggressive, but asking the reader to consider what he has to say. His tone was not really direct and high tempered. But it was much calmer. This calmness allows someone who may somewhat disagree because they feel like they are not being yelled at so they are more likely to read and understand.

      • allisontrainor says:

        I most definitely can see how you saw that he was argumentative, I got that vibe too. But I felt like he was trying to persuade people in a aggressive but calm manner that the government needs to be improved. He wasn’t all too calm either, he did seem to get heated at some points and as you said, quite argumentative.

        • mgigliotti says:

          I see where you are going and I completely agree. I guess I did overlook some of the times where he was a little heated, but I still feel that for the argument that he had he was quite calm. I think that by the way that he acted he was able to entertain more of an audience. If he was heated through the entire document I think that he would have turned a few readers away.

          • I think he seemed rather angry throughout most of the reading, because he was not only criticizing the government and its members but the common people, saying that their form of talking about issues and voting was worse than encouraging evil. He also attacked people’s virtue, which was very important to people, saying there was barely any real “men” in America. Thoreau obviously felt passionately about the subject, but his controversial accusation surely struck a nerve with many readers.

            • samanthamanero says:

              I agree with Deanna, throughout the essay, I feel that he had an angry tone. He criticized the government and also as Deanna said, the common people saying that what they were doing was awful and beyond repairable.

              • allisontrainor says:

                He used his angry tone in a persuasive manner though. His criticisms are used in a persuasive way, to persuade people to agree with his facts that things are wrong with the government. Obviously he was quite angry though. This is easy to see because he does say that common people were doing horrible things, and that they weren’t repairable at all. He is very angry throughout the entire thing though, I agree with that.

                • acaissie says:

                  Thoreau is defenetly angry, and anyone who reads this essay can see that. The government is obviously corrupt and the people are either not seeing it or not doing anything about it, and he is quite argumentative about it as well. I think what Matt was saying is that he is not trying to force anyone to oppose this government he just says if they are going to they should do it in a certain way. Although he says that people should go and speak out he doesn’t go out and say that everyone needs to do this right now.

                  • mgigliotti says:

                    I think that you are right Alex he is not going out to tell the people to be violent and to provoke violence as a means of protesting , but to stand up for what is wrong and do something about. He is telling his story so that he can let others know what is happening to him so they understand what is going on. It is a means of getting an experience that is wrong and needs to be addressed and triggers hope in other people that had experience the same problem, but where did not speak up about it.

          • linettedavis says:

            I got a sense of calmness when I read the text. I think he acted calm in order to mock the people who he was mad at. By seeming cool and collected, he made himself look better and more reliable (the credibility of himself, rather, the “ethos” of the text). Yes, the things he said were critical of his audience who did not act out enough against governmental practices which they did not believe (the war, and slavery). However, he did this in such a collected manner that he still seemed cool, which gives the reader all the more reason to listen to what he has to say, and perhaps act how he instructs them to.

            • I felt he appeared calm in some parts, such as when he was talking about his time in jail, but not throughout the entire text.

              • allisontrainor says:

                Definitely. There were several parts in the text where he seemed to be very heated.

              • jnfortin says:

                There were definitely elements of both. He was clearly mocking the people he was mad at when he was talking about how unnaffected he acted during his stay in the jail, but he got pretty passionate in other parts when he was arguing for what he believed was right and wrong, and when he was telling people to take a stand.

                • katiedunnell says:

                  I can definitely see a relaxed tone used by Thoreau. I feel like he uses his relaxed tone in a way as proving he didn’t do anything wrong and doesn’t care that he’s in trouble for it because he made his point and said what he believed in. Does anyone else see that too?

    • linettedavis says:

      To add on to the Subject/Purpose:

      Thoreau’s opinion of having soldiers present in America is more of a reason to be angry than the British taxes before the revolution. I got this sense from page 212.

      A big reason Thoreau is angry is that the Americans care more about commerce than slavery. They are willing to fight battles with other nations because of issues with taxation and commerce. They constantly discuss economics in government, and vote on bills to deal with commercial issues. However, they do not take the time to discuss slavery. They are silent on the issue. When they do have a vote regarding slavery, one person’s vote does not make a huge difference, because it is up to the majority to decide the outcome. Because of this, we can see that his audience was the American people in power; those who have the ability to vote and change the law. He realizes that just one vote will not make a difference, so he says by simply voting, they are not making enough of an effort to change the policy. In order to make a change, they need to do more than just vote: they must speak out against the injustices. Once attention is brought to the subject, a majority is more likely to vote to end slavery.

      • shogann says:

        I agree with you Allison. Part of the reason he is angry is because of the neglect that slavery and also the war was getting from the people in the country. Thoreau believed that the people weren’t doing enough to create peace and end slavery. Even if they were trying to have a voice in the matter Thoreau saw that as not enough. He wanted people to make more of an effort and try harder. Basically what he thought was that if people wanted that bad to end slavery and war then they should take action in doing it; they shouldn’t just go on complaining about how much it needs to end when they aren’t doing anything about it.

        • linettedavis says:

          My favorite quote was when he said “The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war,” on page 215. I think this ver nicely summarizes his opinion on what his audience should do about injustices. What he is trying to say is that here these people do not like the war so they “applaud” the soldier who does not fight in it, yet they are doing nothing about their disapproval of the war. They still pay taxes to support the war, even though they are against it. Thoreau urges them to not pay, if they don’t support the cause, like he did.

          • jnfortin says:

            I agree with you both, Thoreau was clearly being critical of the people who were claiming to be opposed to the war, yet were doing nothing themselves. They are like synthetic supporters, trying to make themselves feel like they are doing the right thing by agreeing with the just side, but perform no actions to back up their argument. He is saying that it doesn’t matter hat you think if you choose to do nothing one way or the other.

      • When Thoreau was talking about war and slavery I could definitely see how his transcendentalist values influenced his writing. He talked about the soldier being more of a machine than a person, and it made me consider his opposition to the war. I feel like one of the factors could be that Thoreau views the war and draft as taking away from someone’ s individuality, because in his opinion, people must use their own conscience to direct their lives. The same goes with slavery; it takes away people’s individuality.

        • shogann says:

          I agree when you say that slavery and war are taking away people’s individuality, especially with slavery. There was no one who chose to be a slave at the time of slavery in the United States, nor would anyone ever choose to be one at any time. The slaves’ lives were being controlled and made up by their slave owners and technically by the government. This went completely against what Thoreau wanted for people in life and for himself, and that was to be able to live a life that one chose for them.

          • kaitlinmanning101 says:

            I agree Thoreau was obviously quite objected to the idea of slavery, but I think the argument Thoreau is trying to make comes more from the issue of the Mexian-American War. The whole point of the piece kind of all relates back to this war because it was what put him in jail. The money from taxes he refused to pay were going to go straight to the funding of that war and Thoreau absolutely disproved the idea of this. The stand to not pay the taxes to fund the war would be the stand that will forever be remembered as something really monumental and has had quite a lasting impact.

          • jnfortin says:

            That is a very good point; Transcendentalism focused a great deal on individuality and connecting with one’s inner self. He thought all people could connect to their inner selves and nature, and that made all people similar, so slavery was an absolute horror I think opposition to slavery and the war were both prevalent in the text, but Kaitlin’s right that his jail time and the war was his original motive for writing the piece.

            • ghartman44 says:

              no these are completely different topics, just because they both went to jail and were both against slavery doesn’t mean that the purposes of these are the same. Thoreau was more focused on spreading his transcendentalist ideas, while King was trying to get people to follow his lead and actually break the law, while Thoreau was more of an idealist fighting the idea with the principle of it all.

              • jnfortin says:

                None of these posts were comparing the two sources. Just Thoreau’s document. Thoreau was opposed to slavery because of his belief in the importance of the individual, but his main purpose for writing Civil Disobedience was the war.
                On that topic though, the two sources do have dissimilarities, but they share some basic ideas as well. The title of Thoreau’s piece was Civil Disobedience. That was what he was advocating for, because he thought the war was unjust and therefore having to pay a tax that supported it was unjust so that law should not be followed. Transcendentalist ideas were what affected his views and writing, but his main goal was not specifically to spread them. MLK Jr. was also preaching civil disobedience. He focused on the potential effectiveness of non-violent methods of civil disobedience and direct action compared to violent protests. Both authors also stressed the importance of being willing to face the consquences of their actions, and described how being jailed actually helped promote sympathy for their cause. They had different target audiences, (Thoreau focused on bystanders and the common people while MLK focused on fellow church leaders) which affected the way they presented their arguments, but as was mentioned, some of the core principles of their arguments were similar.

  3. jmbruso says:

    Subject- Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience” is about how the society and government have done wrong. Thoreau believes that men should live by their common sense and conscience, not necessarily always by the law. The government should always do what is right and good for the country despite what the majority of people think. Overall Thoreau because that common sense and conscience should be displayed in every person, whether they are just average people in society or people in government in order to create a civil environment.
    Occasion- Thoreau writes his essay while he’s in prison for not paying his taxes. He felt that the taxes were paying off the war between the United States and Mexico, which was unfair for the people to have to pay off. Thoreau hoped to encourage people to think government the say way as him. Giving the government the right to do what is best for the country and what is morally correct, not just what the people want.
    Audience- Thoreau encourages people to use their conscience about the faults that surround them, in civilization. Thoreau went after those who he thought would take a stand and spread what they believed was right. He wanted those who would question government and discuss what it’s faults were and take a stand.
    Purpose- Thoreau wanted to make a stand again the government and society and eliminate all the wrongs that were going on. He believed that in order to make a difference one should take trust their conscience and address the faults in the United States as a whole, in hopes to make the first steps to change the wrongs of the government and society.
    Speaker- Thoreau was a very opinionated and educated man. He lived in Concord, Massachusetts and wrote many different forms of literature. Thoreau was very big on virtue, honor and self-governing. He felt it was important to be in touch with nature to acquire a sense of one with one’s self to form and develop as an individual. Like we talked about in class, Thoreau was a very important person during the time of Transcendentalism.
    Tone- At the beginning of his essay, Thoreau talks very negatively about the government and society in the United States. He points out many faults in the government such as not doing what is right for the country and for the betterment of man. Thoreau goes on about many wrongs in the government and society, but then the tone shifts towards listing accusations to change and improve/modify the United States. If men would live their lives by listening to their conscience then they will surely see an issue in the government and society and make a stand to change and amend them to create an environment that is right, what’s best for everyone in the United States. He see’s that there is the ability to want to change and he strongly encourages people to take a stand for change against things such as slavery.

    • Thoreau wants people to take a stand, but he also encourages civil disobedience. He does not believe in violent protest, just as he doesn’t believe in war, and thinks that passive protest is more effective and builds credibility of the cause. I thought it interesting how he was talking about going to jail as being almost beneficial, because he viewed jail as a way to spread awareness about the cause he were protesting and stir up tension. Thoreau’s protest to the tax was effective, because he did it in a non-violent way and his punishment only helped him to spread his message.

      • samanthamanero says:

        His idea of a non-violent protest makes one think about the civil rights movement. Would Rosa Parks protest be as remembered and as influential if she became angry and violent when they made her get off the bus? A non-violent protest cannot be brushed off, and it makes the group that is being protested against take a step back and evaluate the situation.

        • This is very true. Non-violent actions shows you are in control of the situation, and when the opposing side cannot dismiss you by criticizing your method of protesting, they have no choice but to address the point you were making.

      • allisontrainor says:

        It’s funny that you mention the part about how he viewed jail, when I was readig this, I actually really didn’t understand why he felt the way he did. To spread awareness? I mean he sort of explained in a way so that it makes sense, but still, I really don’t think that even makes sense. But he did take a strong stance on passive protest, you’re right.

        • Well I think that voluntarily going to jail for a non-violent act that you did out of protest raises the credibility of your cause, because you are willing to accept the consequences and it reflects ho strong your feelings are about the subject. Plus jail gets a lot of publicity; when someone you know goes to jail, you pay attention.

          • allisontrainor says:

            That’s true. The willingness to accept the punishments for your cause greatly shows your fight for your cause. Especially if it’s non-violent.

            • jnfortin says:

              That’s very true. In the Letter to Birmingham that MLK Jr wrote, he talks extensively about the benefits of non-violent protest for a worthy cause and stresses the importance of willingly accepting the punishments for your actions. He also talks about what Deanna mentions about the publicity of going to jail. If people are sent to jail unjustly it raises sympathy and awareness for the cause from the general public.

      • linettedavis says:

        In response to Deanna saying that going to jail raised awareness:

        This is an interesting tactic that protesters used. After reading that, I thought about how he was right: when you go to jail for an unjust law, the law is reconsidered, and your reputation is even boosted sometimes. Martin Luther King also advocated accepting the consequences, as a way for the people to see what’s going on. Being put in jail certainly raises awareness among the people.

        In this situation, Thoreau was hoping that other people would see him put in jail for not paying the taxes for a war which he did not believe in, so they would think the government is ridiculous for punishing him for such an act. Perhaps the chain of events would lead them to reconsider whether they themselves wanted to pay an unjust government, and they would stop paying in order to protest the war which they also did not believe in.

        • allisontrainor says:

          This is most definitely true, Linette. He was hoping that people would follow in this cause because he went to jail for it. And because he went to jail for not paying the taxes for a war he didn’t believe in, it gave much more credibility to his cause, and gave him hope that other people would follow in his footsteps.

          • linettedavis says:

            Maybe also, he wanted people to see how brave he was that he would face the consequences for his actions, and that would encourage them to do the same. For accepting the consequences when you disobey an unjust law is showing your “highest respect” of the law, as MLKJ puts it.

            • allisontrainor says:

              He accepted his punishment greatly as a sort of motivational and persuasive way to get people to follow his lead.

            • kaitlinmanning101 says:

              Yes, I do think Thoreau went to jail to create a lasting impact of how one can stand up to unjust laws. The way he stood up for himself and voluntarily went to jail for what he believed in really helped set a precedent for future believers in the rights of the people. Thoreau advocates strongly for standing up for what you believe in and is a great example of how one can do this appropriately and effectively. Linette’s quote of the great Martin Luther King shows how influential Thoreau really was and how he impacted such a great American. I think if it were not for Thoreau then people might be afraid to stick up for what is right and what they believe in, in fear of their actions not having an impact.

              • jmbruso says:

                I would have to disagree with you when you say he stood up for his beliefs. I think he went to jail because it was mandatory. However, two years later when this essay was published he was able to use the day in jail as a very good example to show that he had strong beliefs that came with some dramatic consequences. He had an impact with non-violence and being together with one’s self, he didn’t need to plot agreeing to jail to share is opinions to others.

                • allisontrainor says:

                  I agree, Jordan. He did what was mandatory, it’s not like he wanted to go to jail. He was simply willing to accept the punishment, even though his actions were non-violent, because he was showing that he was credible for his cause, and wouldn’t give up just because a punishment stood in his way.

                  • jnfortin says:

                    That’s true, but then again no one wants to go to jail. The point was that Thoreau accepted the consequenes of his actions, which he surely knew were coming when he decided not to pay the tax. I do agree though that he used the example of his jail time to make his argument more effective and to try and give it credibility.

  4. samanthamanero says:

    Subject: “Civil Disobedience,” by Henry David Thoreau was written about protesting government through “civil disobedience,” or passive acts of non-violent opposition, according to Thoreau, in order to improve government. He states that while the United States has a precedent setting government, it cal always be improved. He discusses the wrongs in government, such as dictating people’s lives. He believes that government is there to assist the people live an easier and safer life, not to control their lives. He points out that government is run by the majority. Moving within his transcendentalist ideals, he states that the minority should have a large amount of power within government. This is where he discusses the concept of voting on the president or laws. He states that voting is wrong because it leaves the decision up to the majority. Thoreau brings in soldiers and slavery, stating that they are beings that cannot think for themselves. He ends his argument by stating that this movement toward democracy has been a process, and we are working to improve upon our government every day. He states that the government needs to look towards the rights of the individual and implement them.
    Occasion: This essay was written during the war between the United States and Mexico. The war occurred between 1846 and 1848. Henry David Thoreau was an opinionated critic of war, and therefore he refused to pay his taxes which paid for the war. Because he refused to pay taxes, he was thrown in jail for one day, two years later he wrote “Civil Disobedience.”
    Audience: Henry David Thoreau wrote “Civil Disobedience” for people of the United States. Specifically he wrote it for rich, white, educated men, especially others that oppose war and slavery.
    Purpose: Thoreau wrote “Civil Disobedience” because he wanted to non-violently make a stand against the government and the total control the government had over the people of the United States. He believes that the minority should control the government and therefore he advocated for the expression of individuality. He was an avid critic of war and this essay pointed out the fact that one does not need war or violence to appose a government.
    Speaker: This essay was written by Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1817 and died in 1862. He advocated for better government and a simplified life. He advocated against war and decided that one could oppose government without war. He was against slavery and soldiers, stating that they were just moving objects without thoughts. He was a large part of the transcendentalist movement, believing in equality among everyone and individuality.
    Tone: In the beginning of the essay, Thoreau’s tone is accusing and disparaging. He describes the government as a body that does not defend freedom, liberty, and peoples rights. He points out that there are no longer any virtuous men, people do not stand up for what they believe in anymore. When he begins to discuss his incarceration, he speaks in a mocking manner because he feels that when one is placed in prison for non-violent protest it has more of an impact. He eventually takes a more sympathetic tone when he discusses the reasons why people would not oppose government.

    • linettedavis says:

      I’m confused because both you and Deanna have mentioned Thoreau’s advocacy of a minority in power. I thought that he did not like the minority because they did not always make the best decisions, but I was wondering where you saw that he does like the minority. Perhaps I am missing something important.

      • jmbruso says:

        No I believe you’re right Linette, I got the impression that he was opposed to the minority in power as well. He talked about not making good decisions and he felt that would have been weakening for the government.

        • He definitely opposed the majority being in power, not the minority. He talks throughout the text about the uselessness of voting and allowing the majority decision to dictate your life, even if you don’t agree with it. Allowing the majority rule to be in control opposes the individuality that was so important to transcendentalists. If you look towards the top of the thread, I made a post with a quote about how Thoreau thought majority rule was unjust.

          • acaissie says:

            Even if the majority was unjust that would contribute to the unjust minority governments power. They do, after all derive their power from the votes of the majority. Basically the majority is unjust because they are taking the government’s word as truth and voting as such. I think Thoreau is trying to give them a wakeup call more than anything.

            • allisontrainor says:

              I’m not really sure what you mean by giving them a wakeup call… Giving who a wakeup call? But he definitely opposed the majority being in power, like Deanna said.

              • jnfortin says:

                I think Deanna’s right about Thoreau being opposed to the majorities power, but did that mean he conversely prefered “the minority,” or did he think that neither should be in power because there were so few individuals who seemed to agree and advocate with the priorites and beliefs that Thoreau believed in? Or did he think the government simply needed better people in the minority because the majority couldn’t be trusted and currently the people in the minority couldn’t either?

  5. kaitlinmanning101 says:

    I think that Thoreau tries to make many points throughout his essay that are obviously quite influential, but one point kind of made me think quite hard because he talks about everything that is wrong with the government and constantly complains throughout about all the issues that have risen from it. So tt seemed to me that he did not want to in any way abolish the government but does however have many ideas on how the people can help mend it.
    He also criticizes the southern slave owners and the northern merchants for just wanting to seek profit rather than serving humanity, which I find to still have a lasting effect today. People today have those same opinions regarding those who are rich and only want to make money, but do not empathize with the fact that there are others who need help out there and the point of life is not just who can make the most money and have the nicest things.

    • jmbruso says:

      I never really got that impression while I was reading his essay, but reading your post I started to think that his views for a perfect society and government has many similarities to communism. Don’t get me wrong I definitely do not think that he was some crazy power thirsty man, but he did believe in perfecting society, Like you said he felt that the Southern slave owners and the Northern merchants seeking self profit not serving and contributing to the community, the human race as a whole.

    • shogann says:

      You made a really good point Kaitlin when you said that Thoreau wants the people to help mend the government. It makes me look back and rethink about what he wrote. This essay can not only be looked at as awareness but also as a call for help. Thoreau cannot completely improve the government alone and taking a stand and going to jail was only his first step. He was trying to gain help from the people. He told them what improvements were needed and now he wanted to put it in to action. He would help people lead the way and show them how to take action.

      • jnfortin says:

        You guys make a good point. Thoreau does seem to complain a lot about the government because it doesn’t match up with many of his ideas and beliefs. In general he did seem to be trying to rally bystanders to taking action, and it could be interpreted that he was trying to get them to see his way as well as protest the war. I think he mainly focused on telling people to take action against unjust laws however, and since his beliefs shaped his argument, he ended up indirectly trying to get people to agree with those beliefs.

  6. katiedunnell says:

    SOAPSTONE on “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

    Speaker: Martin Luther Kind J.R. was crusader against segregation. He was a well-educated man with a PHD from Boston University. King “advocated nonviolent resistance in the face of discrimination and violence.” He was also an American clergyman and activist during the Civil Rights Movement. King led and organized the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and he was also the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
    Occasion: Martin Luther King wrote this during a time of a long nation-wide process known as the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s.
    Audience: King’s audience is first, other clergymen. He’s targeting clergymen because he thought out of all people, the church would be the first people to be behind him in his argument and help him protest. King’s second audience is those of the public who are sympathetic. He is reaching out to those who believe in the same end goal as him but just don’t know how to help or get involved.
    Purpose: King’s main purpose of the letter is to argue that he can no longer wait as the clergymen told him too. The clergymen told him that they agree with him in integration but told him he’s being too abrupt about it and needs to wait and hold off. King is also writing to show how upset and confused he is that the people of the church aren’t even supporting him. One would think that the church would be in complete outrage by segregation and would be going out there and telling people that they need to take action and things need to change. He tells the clergymen that if they understood his pain and humiliation, they too would advocate immediately for change.
    Subject: The subject of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is mainly explaining something needs to be done now and that he isn’t getting support from his clergy peers. He also talks about how he doesn’t think he broke a law but instead broke an unjust law, which is a law that is manmade and not rooted in God. He believes that breaking an unjust law is NOT morally wrong, and in fact, it is a responsibility for people to disobey and break unjust laws.
    Tone: I think that King uses a passionate tone expressing deeply what he believes in and why he believes in it. I noticed he also appeals to people’s emotions when he talks about black children who are disadvantaged from white children activities, “When you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told Funtown is closed to colored children..” This is an example that King uses to show the clergymen and his audience the pain segregation brings to blacks and this is also how he reaches out to the sympathetic people in the public.

    • allisontrainor says:

      I also think the purpose of this document was to show the sympathetic public that there’s no time to wait. Also to show the people who have the power to actually do something about the segregation that it’s time. A now or never kind of thing. When the clergymen told him to wait and that people would come around, MLKJ already had, and saw that things weren’t changing at all.

      • jnfortin says:

        Something else that contributed to the purpose was that, since MLK Jr. had deep respect for the church and was a very active part of it, the fact that the church was critizing his movement and letting him down was very disappointing to him. He wanted to provide a logical argument that helped the church to better understand what he was doing and why he had decided to take action now rather than waiting. He was albe to make the letter so extensive since he was stuck in jail.

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