IOP reflection

I’ve learnt a lot from seeing other’s IOP presentation over the last week. Firstly, I’ve realized that my presentation is relatively wordy: I’ve included lots of supporting quotes, but they filled up the whole slide which might have seemed bit boring to the audience. I could have just focused on several quotes and analyze it thoroughly instead of listing lots of quotes throughout the presentation. Also, it might be due to difference in text but those who gave presentation on Odyssey and Joy Luck Club seemed to have more details and stories that could be analyzed and understood easily, even though there was risk of confusing the characters as the real-life person.

I thought something that went well during my presentation was dividing my arguments into sections. I’ve started with how Civil Disobedience is inspiring to those who are enlightened and has sense of nobility, continuing with why it is offending to patriots, neighbors and those who dislike Thoreau’s attitude within the speech. Also, while preparing the presentation I’ve re-read Civil Disobedience in more depth, considering what aspects of the speech are inspiring and offending, and what kind of people will be inspired or offended. It allowed me to discover the quotes and their meanings which I’ve skimmed through before, and to understand the text better myself.

Narrative Art in Civil Disobedience

In Thoreau’s Narrative Art in Civil Disobedience, Barry Wood states, “the single-minded emphasis in commentary on Civil Disobedience to the political rather than the artistic suggests a virtual blind spot even among the most sensitive critics”. Wood believes that many of Thoreau’s creative ideas may have had an influence from other people. According to Wood, Thoreau was “not the first to live in a cabin by a pong near Concord… Even the ideas of Civil Disobedience had important forerunners”. This made me think that although Thoreau was the person who wrote Civil Disobedience, maybe he shouldn’t be the one to get all the credit. Or maybe it’s the winners who deserve to get the credit, since they were the ones who were able to link everything together and write convincing essays. As most essays mention, Thoreau was very closely linked with nature. However, Wood thinks that it could have been an influence from Emerson and Melville. They both seem to be linking the real world and the spiritual world together. Where in times of happiness or creativity, people will be in both worlds at the same time. I wonder why Thoreau would get such recognition when other such people with similar characteristics hardly get mentioned. Is it because they lacked something, or didn’t write essays, or maybe because they didn’t express their feeling?

When Thoreau goes to jail, he says that he was on a “long journey”. His description of the jail seems so different of what people would imagine it to be like. Thoreau doesn’t even complain that he is in jail and says that he learnt new things about his town and surroundings. Maybe nature has something to do with this. Since people who live engrossed in nature do not need many materialistic things, and learn to appreciate the beauty around them. “When I came out of prison, -for some one interfered, and paid that tax”.  Is Thoreau okay with someone paying for his tax? Although he writes “interfered”, does he really mean this? I doubt that he would rather be in jail then someone pay his tax and let him out.

Thoreau civil disobedience response

Thoreau civil disobedience criticises American policies such as slavery and the Mexican war. He begins his essay by arguing that the government is completely useless and only gets its power from majority because they have the most power. He believes that people should do what they believe is right and not to follow the law that has been set by the majority of the population and this is exactly the lifestyle that he follows and that is why so many famous inspirational people like Ghandi, follow him and fight for what they thought was right and didn’t just follow the law even though they may disagree. However Thoreau thought that a person is not obligated to give up his life to fight evil views/laws, but they are obligated to not follow such evil views just because everyone else is. He believed that if a government is unfair people should not follow the law but distance themselves from the government as a whole. In this essay Thoreau used himself as a model as when he went into jail because he refused to pay taxes but when he came out he dissociated himself from the government, “washing his hands” of it.

Response to Richard Drinnon’s essay on Civil Disobedience

When I was reading Richard Drinnon’s essay about Thoreau and his Civil Disobedience, I was especially intrigued by the prevailing argument of whether Thoreau was an individualist or an anarchist. Therefore, I was inclined to evaluate Thoreau’s opinion in the Civil Disobedience and other’s opinions about him as a political figure.

From the Civil Disobedience, Thoreau clarified that he is just a civilian who wants to stop the government from carrying out unjust actions and wants others with same idea to be actively involved. He chastised people were afraid of expressing their opposition to slavery and the Mexican War, and asserted that not paying tax and preventing the support of government’s expediency is righteous action that a patriot can do. The audience tends to think that Thoreau was either an individualist, an anarchist, both or neither. Just as an elucidation, individualists are those who values personal ambitions and independence while opposing other organizations such as the government. And, the anarchists are those who consider the state as harmful to the civilians and desires community without hierarchy and laws. From Thoreau’s acting against the government and claiming for individual freedom he seems to be an individualist, whereas his comment on the state as being ‘evil’ and his statement “That government is best which governs not at all” seems to disclose his anarchist side.

As shown in Richard Drinnon’s essay, people show different opinions about Thoreau’s political stance. This is mostly due to his satire, wide margins for writing and use of paradox which caused people to interpret Civil Disobedience in variety of ways. From personal point of view, Thoreau seems to hint at, then contradict his opinions that can be regarded as either individualist or anarchist. For example, Thoreau states that good government shouldn’t govern, then alleviated it by saying that “I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government”. Furthermore, he informs us that he is “as desirous of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject”. His use of language confuses the audience: he seems as if he wants the government to disappear but in the end just wants it to be improved, and he opposes the government and demands individual freedom but concurrently makes speech in favor of others who also opposes the government’s unjust action.

From my perspective, he doesn’t seem to be either an individualist or an anarchist but rather a civilian who demands one’s freedom to advocate what one wants to support, and who wants to live a self-satisfactory, voluntary life. I believe that his chastising speech, bold tone and active opposition is what made him stand out as possible individualist or anarchist and to be rigorously debated amongst people. Hence, in my opinion Thoreau is rather an ‘advisor’ who bravely points out the faults of society and recommends people what to do in order to live their own lives.

Civil Disobedience – Critical Essay

An in depth response to Evan Carton’s, The Price of Privilege: “Civil Disobedience” at 150.

Evan Carton is a university lecturer who has taught Thoreau to students for years, mainly to students that are “intelligent, middle-class, well intentioned” undergraduates of the University of Texas. Carton mentions throughout his essay the thoughts that previous students have had on Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, how previous students can never quite explain why their views on Civil Disobedience are so strongly put forward in their responses when questioned why they dislike Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience.

As Carton states towards the end of his essay, all of his students responses are “reasonable”. However, it is Thoreau’s words that are used, not the main body of his work that emotionally effects the students of his classes. Carton’s description of his students thoughts while in their trainers and how they could/would “hear Thoreau whispering” about how the students are being carried on the backs of the underpaid “sweatshop workers” that made the shoes. This description is particularly emotive as it is perfectly applicable to the generation we’re in at the moment. Many people never stop to think about how the garment they’re wearing is made or who by or for how much. Overall, this part of Carton’s essay struck a particular cord with me, and has made me think more about the origin’s of the products i use/clothes i buy.

In one respect, I understand where Carton has come from with this. Although I’ve never taught Thoreau, or would ever like to try to teach it, I did feel rather emotional after reading Civil Disobedience. Not, curling up in a corner crying kind of emotional, but slightly offended, slightly hurt and quite embarrassed. Thoreau makes a point in Civil Disobedience about the slaves and how although we may dislike the idea, we don’t do anything to stop it. I know many people, myself included, that have felt strongly about an issue, yet never quite gotten around to making any difference to it. Never quite had the energy to focus my attention on the pressing matter instead of pushing it away, and hoping somebody else will take care of it. Although, i do believe that we are all guilty of this at some point, maybe even on a lesser scale than something that affects the world, I kind of go against what Thoreau has implied. Yes, we all do over-look the things that we know we really should help with in the world. But on the other hand, one person rarely makes all the difference. In order to resolve a problem, slavery for example, it is hundreds/thousands of people that are willing to work, help, sacrifice for the cause. Yet in the era we’re living in now, it’s not likely that this will ever happen.
Page 571 – All of these objections are reasonable…..

Why do the students hate Thoreau. legit reasons for it.


Evan Carton’s Essay On Civil Disobedience

Evan Carton’s essay on Civil Disobedience focuses on students and their reactions after reading Civil Disobedience. This essay was different from the other two that we read because it focused on the reaction of other people that read it and how Carton interprets why his students acted a certain way after reading the essay. Carton explains that Thoreau doesn’t pay his taxes because it is a form of civil obedience because the government uses funds from taxes to fund slaveholding and wars. However, I don’t understand how Thoreau believes in the individual and their thoughts and actions will make a bigger impact than majority but one person not paying taxes is not going to affect a lot. But then he continues on to say that if thousands of people don’t pay them; it will work. He seems to be contradicting himself at every turn.

Carton also explains his non-taxpaying belief as a way to have more face-to face time with the government instead of having a clear distinction between civilians and representatives of the government and not even the government itself. When the government meets the people it governs, they will finally see that what they are doing doesn’t always agree with individuals like Thoreau and the famous line “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” is actually hypocritical.

My favorite part of the essay was how he explained how his students felt that the essay was criticizing how they advocate morality but they don’t do what they say in every sense of the word. The conclusion summarizes how they think Civil Disobedience summarizes the worst part of humanity and they said that it can also be seen as the most hopeful because we see our flaws.

Thoreau’s Narrative Art in Civil Disobedience by Barry Wood

This essay, I felt, was the easiest to understand. I feel it’s the only one that broke Thoreau’s ‘Civil disobedience’ into a few bite-sized portions. Barry Wood effectively identified the focus point of Thoreau’s essay. The crux of Thoreau’s essay was, in his opinion centered around Thoreau’s night in prison. Through reading this essay bt Barry Wood, I’m better able to organise my thoughts about thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience’.

I find it very interesting that Barry Wood compared Thoreau’s night in prison to  Dante’s night in hell. As I’ve read Dante’s Inferno and have a good understanding of what it’s talking about, I’m able to see the connection Wood’s trying to create. Through his night in prison, Thoreau’s view of the world and events taking plae around him changes. This was compaired to Dante seeing ‘the light’ when he emerged from hell in the epic poem ‘Inferno’.

Wood also elaborates on the parts coming before and after the part after the part. In the beginning, Thoreau talks about the current situation, and how the government at that time was. He also elaborated on fact that the government was corrupt and how some fo the decisions they made were wrong. The third part (the part after talking about his night in prison), Thoreau sets forth the really free and enlightened state that he imagines for the future, ‘a fusion of the individual as a higher and independent power, from which its own power and authority are derived.’ Thoreau talks about what he would like the government to be, and what he thinks the situation should be in the indeal world. Through this analytical essay,  I’m better able to see the flow of ‘Civil Disobedience’.

My favourite part of the essay was the ending where the night in prison was described as the most interesting and natural adventure Thoreau went through.

Civil Disobedience Critical Essay

Thoreau’s politics of the upright man – Richard Drinnon

When Richard Drinnon compares Civil Disobedience so Antigone it got me thinking what other similarities are there between these two things. He talks about libertarian views in the play but there also could be the similarity of the strength of actions such as in Antigone how she defied what the government said and did what she thought was right. This is also talked about in Civil Disobedience you could say that when he says about the government governing least this could be taken in my eyes to be the government not controlling as much. This would then stop with the rules/laws then this would not create more defiance then that what is already needed. If there wasn’t the rule in Antigone then she would have done no wrong except respecting her brother, Richard Drinnon comments on how Thoreau echoed Antigone by his rejection to Creon’s judgement. This is shown in his rejection of the law but his belief in the higher law like Antigone  with gods and she must do the god’s work. But this violation of the law is morally correct so they are serving the higher law. This reference to Antigone may not have given him all the ideas for his essay it did spark some key ideas which have been included. Both the texts talk about the highest responsibility is to one self and not to the state and in this sentence Antigone’s actions are proven to be of higher importance.

Thoreau thoughts on the indirect support of unjust acts

Thoreau in Civil Disobedience points out to the reader that many people, who claim they’re against something are actually indirectly supporting it. On page 231 Thoreau claims that ‘ ‘There are thousands who are in opinion opposed to slavery and to the war, yet who in fact in effect do nothing to put an end to them’ This statement seem to be a wake up call to the audience, it seems to be trying to prompt the people into direct action against slavery and the war, making them feel guilt through the claim that by doing nothing they are indirectly encouraging the continuation of slavery and wars, this statement seems to challenge the audience to prove Thoreau wrong.

This is further supported on page 233 when Thoreau gives an example of his previous allegation when he claims that he heard some of his townsmen say ‘ I should like to have them order me out to help put down a insurrection of slaves, or to march to mexico;-see if I would go’  This shows that the townsmen are against the idea of slavery and marching to war in Mexico. Thoreau suggests that unknowingly the townsmen have been ‘directly by their allegiance and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute’ This suggests that Thoreau seems to think that the people aren’t even aware that through doing what is right e.g. paying their taxes, they are going against their own morals and beliefs against war and slavery. Thoreau seems to be trying to warn them that through seemingly good acts they are indirectly causing major damage to the efforts to support their beliefs.


Thoreau and Interdependency

In Evan Carton’s “The Price of Privilege”, he discusses how middle class American’s must feel the guilt of being apart of “a social engine that seems theirs to ride but not to steer” – an engine that can be tied to the perpetration of immoral acts, but an engine that they are inextricably tied to.  The portion of this critical essay that I found most interesting was the ‘shoulder-sitter’ metaphor that Carton highlights from Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”.

Thoreau says a man need not make it his mission to eradicate wrongdoings in society “but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.”  This means that you don’t have to take it upon yourself to save the world from evil, but at least you must withdraw your support of said evil.  Thoreau extends this to the metaphor of sitting on another man’s shoulders:  “If I devote myself to other pursuits… I must first see… that I do not pursue them sitting on another man’s shoulders.”  If we were to focus in on this point then could it not be said that Thoreau too, sits on the shoulders of others while pursuing his own interests.  When Thoreau is sentenced to prison for not paying his tax, it is a friend that bails him out.  When Thoreau takes two years off to live in a cabin at Walden, is he not neglecting any obligations he has to society?  Did he crush the dreams of his family by leaving the pencil factory, or by not going with his brother to California – but instead pursuing a life of solitude?  If you look at anyone’s situation in too critical a light, you will find that they are sitting on the shoulders of somebody.

Thoreau calls out each and every one of us for our inability to see how interdependent our society is – even if he may seem a hypocrite for doing so.  Carton says that what Thoreau achieves is to make us pay a kind of “soul tax” for this unjust interdependency within society.  But what can we do?

Civil Disobedience-Personal Reflection

Thoreau has a rather pessimistic view of the government. He seems to think that there are few good people left in the world. I was initially confused about Thoreau’s view of rebelling against the government by not paying taxes as he seemed to think that the money was used wastefully in the war, slavery etc. Thoreau to me seems to me as a person who views the world in a different way, in the end I came to realize that if everyone refused to pay taxes then Thoreau’s method would actually work and there would be no war as the government can’t fund it, however what he fails to realize is that if the funds were to stop then all other government services would also be stopped.

I personally thought that Thoreau tries to appeal to the more humane side of his readers, even though I disliked reading his essay as to me it was quite boring due to the fact that I don’t really read that kind of text, I found his writing revolutionary and quite persuasive in trying to stop the gevernment and slavery.

Civil Disobedience- Reflection

I thought civil disobedience would be quite boring to read, but after I finished it I was convinced by Thoreau’s arguments and got interested in his thoughts as well. Initially, I’ve thought that his arguments were quite invalid: how can slavery and war simply disappear just by not paying tax to the government? But Thoreau’s further explanation and assertion changed my previous perspective. Even though it might be something that’s insignificant to the government (one person resisting to pay tax), Thoreau boldly went into the prison saying that it’s the only place for just people if the society is full of unjust ones, and resisted to pay tax since the government uses that money to further maintain slavery, support war or other kinds of ‘evil’ that Thoreau is against of. Furthermore, when he criticized those ones who supports the abolition of slavery and war only in theory are actually the ones that deter the necessary reform from happening, I’ve felt quite ashamed of myself. Because the majority people tend to avoid active participation if it is risk-involving such as getting all of your properties confiscated, Thoreau’s point seems to pinpoint the inner guilt of the audience  and convince them that they can make a difference. He also says that even though it brings cost to us, it is right to return anything that is unjustly acquired- by this, he urges people to carry out their thoughts of abolishing slavery, war and other ‘misdeeds’ of the states in order to make it become a reality.
In conclusion,  I was really convinced by his ideas and found his reasons for not paying tax to go into the jail very interesting and profound. I thought there might not be a lot of people who can actually carry out his or her thoughts into action so confidently as Thoreau did, risking the danger of imprisonment, confiscation and all the other negative consequences.

‘Civil Disobedience’ Reflection

In ‘Civil Disobedience’ Thoreau paints a disturbing picture of the US government and society in general.  Thoreau’s opinion of how the government has abused their powers is obviously very critical.  He is opposed to ‘big government’, believing that government should be involved in people’s lives as little as possible.  This is still a commonly held belief in America today and is a part of the core values the United States were founded upon.  The government of the United States was designed as a government ‘for the people, by the people’.  As time went on, however, this didn’t always prove to be the case.  Thoreau speaks out against the government for how unjust their conduct is in the ongoing Mexican War and in the allowance of slave holding.

Thoreau came across to me as a kind of forefather of the Vietnam era hippies – though a seemingly more intellectual version.  While he makes rational claims, they don’t always seem completely viable.  If all Americans were to protest the government’s foul actions with tax evasion, they could put it to an end.  However, it is very difficult to change the opinion of an entire public and even greater to change what they have come to accept as moral and immoral by the laws created by man.  Thoreau mentions that a prison sentence would seem to many a penalty for criminals, but people must throw away previous convictions in order to carry out a truly just act of standing up against tyranny.

His writing is well and truly ahead of its time – if written today the case would be the same.  The United States and the world as a whole has a long way to come in order for an anarchy guided by righteous conscience to be succeed – let alone exist.

Civil Disobedience

Wow… Never taken so long to read 20 pages. It’s an essay, not even a novel.

Surprisingly it was pretty interesting. Well, by that I mean that part that I understood was pretty interesting. I’m not going to say I agree with everything, but what Thoreau says usually has some sense and reason behind it. At least he knows what he’s talking about.

I like the way that he isn’t so materialistic, and actually cares about the unjust actions by the government. As he says, there are many people who do disagree with many laws, but do nothing to change it. He is someone who even went to prison for what he believes. The point’s not about whether I agree with what he’s thinking or not, it’s about his guts and real determination to do something to help. This is hard to see in real life.

I just find some language really hard to understand. Yes, using a dictionary does help, but by the time you search up all the words in a paragraph, you forget the definition of the first word you looked up, and then have to go through it again. It’s a continuous cycle… Yes, you can write the definitions on the book, but then it still takes time and lots of brain power to understand what’s going on. I’m not trying to sound like I’m complaining, but this is my personal thought about this essay. Opps, I wrote ‘book’ before. Haha… Well we are reading this essay from a book at the moment aren’t we?

Oh yes, when I first read the start of Civil Disobedience, I was like ‘the government shouldn’t govern?’ What is this guy thinking!?!  I still don’t get that point, but I guess it’s okay. Maybe he doesn’t mean it literally… Since, if the government didn’t govern, what would it do? So basically, the thing that stayed in my mind the most from this book, essay, is how people shouldn’t just say whatever they want, and not work towards it. It’s not just about revolution or change. I think this applies to everything. As in, people shouldn’t just have big dreams, and then never work towards them and give up. They have to have the determination to do everything, to at least try properly, before they will see any change.



Civil Disobedience – Thoreau (Personal Reflection)

Reading the 20 pages Civil Disobedience took a lot of time to read and reread because it was very difficult to understand but the worksheets helped a lot. I felt that I spend a lot of time trying to decipher what each paragraph meant so I didn’t get the general idea of the whole 20 pages. What I did understand was that he stood up for what he believed in and he thinks that just protest or the weak attempts people make at rebellion is not enough. He said that his time in prison was rewarding and actually much more free than his time outside and I felt that it was a really interesting distinction that he made. I kind of understand his point because real life gives us a lot of confinements and we have to obey laws set by people we’ve never met or talked to or discussed with yet they call it a democracy.

Reading the Emerson part was much easier to understand and it most described how Thoreau was a really great person that people didn’t really appreciate until too late.

I still feel that I don’t understand the general passage much and I will need to read it over again and ask a lottt of questions.

Civil Disobedience

I thought that the speech was a little complicated. However, through reading it, I learnt a lot. A lot of things that Thoreau says in his speech make a lot of sense especially if we think through his analogies and what he says. I’m quite confused about his point in some parts, but the main idea is there.

Thoreau strongly believed that ‘That government is best which governs least”, and I think taht that’s a very interesting concept. This made me think about the issues of the different types of government and economies in today’s society. There are communist countries as well as countries ruled by dictatorship. Majority of the world population is democratic though, and that’s something that is interesting. Is a democratic government one that govern’s least? Thoreau had a very negative view on the government and thought that it was very easily abused. After all, all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When one’s in charge, it’s quite certain that corruption is observed. Thoreau goes further and says that government hinders growth. While I agree that that could happen, I do not think that this is always the case. Without some form of government, progress would be difficult.Thoreau claimed that he supported the government and respected them, yet was very critical of their decisions and held them in low esteem.

While I’m not completely sure of what the entire passage is talking about, and I still think it’s confusing, I really admire Thoreau for his courage. I think it’s admirable that people are willing to stand up and speak out. Thoreau serves as an inspiration to all.

Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”

I thought this was a very well thought essay, I especially liked when he contests that people should follow what they think is right and not just what believes is right. This essay has a way of getting you to believe in what he says and thinks, which really made me think over everything about it all. The essay does go on about government a bit too much for me but all in all it wasn’t a bad read but wasn’t the best.

Personal Response to “On Civil Disobedience”

I thought that Thoreau’s passion about the end to slavery and the war against Mexico was very evidently sincere. It would seem that not only was Thoreau an early abolitionist, but also an early anarchist (and early socialist from the argument he makes later when he demands a better government before no government). I also found Thoreau’s passion very bold. He mentions early on the “wooden gun”. Considering that the gun is a symbol of the American citizens to overthrow tyranny, it is certainly a very bold metaphor that says a lot about what he thinks about the American government at that time. This feeling is also evident when he mentions the “cloth-o’-silver slut” which I believe to be the America that will tolerate the slave trade: Though she is well off, for her cloth is of silver, her soul is dragging in the dirt. Thoreau not only finds what they are doing wrong, but despicable, dirty and gut-wrenchingly foul. Despite this, I see little concern except for that of the inaction of those that believe similar to him.

I found it initially odd, the idea of acting as one on the electoral roll, but outside of the majority. The black and white morality (as today it is assumed), makes it seem right. I am of course not American, but I neve thought about American revolt in this way; I see the American’s right to bear arms against tyranny to be optional. Thoreau sees it as an obligation.


Furthermore, my mind was blown just after the first half of the essay’s first paragraph. I had to close the book and breathe deeply: I’m not joking or exaggerating. I said in class that I’d give this book an 8/10, but the more I think about it, the higher the rating gets.