Rhetorical Analysis On Civil Disobedience

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Conscience is defined “as the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong,” by the Merriam Webster Dictionary. Henry Thoreau, a philosopher, writer and transcendentalist, understood the individual to be capable of his own conscience. Throughout his essay, “Civil Disobedience”, which was published in 1849, Thoreau states that the American government is creating “unjust laws” and that the people “in effect do nothing to put an end to them” (149). Meaning, individuals in government allow for a “corrupt State”, the citizens are aware of these actions, yet choose to obey the laws; therefore, “he is not a leader, but a follower” (163). In terms of conscience, Thoreau poses the question, “Can there …show more content…
Martin Luther King, Jr, an activist and civil rights leader, wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, as a response to eight white clergymen who criticized Dr. King and his supporters. Throughout his letter, he answers the men through their criticism and racist tactics against the blacks. Dr. King believes that he cannot just sit still and remain unconcerned about the discrimination in Birmingham. Even though some communities and states are unaware that their segregation tactics are unimportant, Dr. King argues that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere...whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” (182). In other words, the freedom of all citizens is being questioned. Dr. King had hoped that “the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice” (189), and not for creating unjust laws. Dr. King wanted to awaken the conscience of the community by exposing laws that are “morally wrong” so that the people are aware of these actions. He declares that the one who respects the law actually “breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail” (193). Meaning, disobeying the law is justified if conscience was the reasoning behind the action. It is necessary to use peaceful reasoning to protect the rights of all …show more content…
King’s writing, the individual is capable of his own conscience. They both acknowledge that unjust laws will remain until people decide to take action and change them. One’s conscience allows him to make his own decisions about what is morally right or wrong. Therefore, the individual is responsible for choosing to follow the government and cannot simply obey. Both men believe that the unjust law “is a code that the majority inflicts on a minority” group that it does not adhere to itself. Moreover, both men agree that violence is not the answer and if the government chooses to punish those standing up for justice by imprisoning them, then one must accept the punishment. All in all, government is corrupt and it is the duty of the citizen to challenge unjust authority and take action to change

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