Thoreau’s Resistance to Civil Government – English Literature Essay (200 Level Course)
While reading Resistance to Civil Government it is clear that Thoreau longs of a government that does not use a standing army and political manipulation to control the masses. It is clear that his vision of the “American Dream” is one where a citizens do not hand over their decision making powers and freedoms to the legislator
or to any power other then themselves. Thoreau implorers the reader to formulate their own opinion on social and economic issues. He asks them to revolt against the “right hand of a standing government” and that participation in any act of the political process from voting to policing is merely fueling the fire that burns away at personal freedom.
For it is freedom that Thoreau sees as the “American Dream” and nothing less. It is to this pursuit that Thoreau channels his frustration and anger towards. He believes that men are born free both in mind and body. He presents no valid reason why this should ever change. Anything less then this is merely seen as being cheated. “If you are cheated out of a single dollar by your neighbor, you do not rest satisfied with knowing that you are cheated”. Thoreau is no way a man that is at rest with himself, with dreams, with his government, with his country and certainly not with his readers. He demands action from principle and the performance of right. This is the America that Thoreau wants and anything less would only mean that his fight is not over.
Thoreau goes as far as to say that the reader should be prepared to make great sacrifices for their fight to regain personal freedom. Participation in this fight may cause the reader to run the risk of compromising the little personal freedom that is currently possessed. “The true place for a just man is also a prison”, his claim that the current imprisonment of the mind is far worse then the physical imprisonment threatened. Imprisonment is seen only as a tool by the establishment to herd the masses and should not be feared, as Thoreau sees the reader’s daily life no more free.
Thoreau expands on his vision of the “American Dream” in Walden, or Life in the woods. He makes his point of self-reliance clear within the first few paragraphs of the work by making sure that reader understands that he himself built his house at Walden and that his own hands provide him his living. Even that he feels inclined to state his distance between him and his closest neighbor shows the reader how important the idea of personal space is to him. Personal space not only as it relates the threshold for creative thought but in the very important, but simple, concept of physical distance from that which can control some element of your being.
Thoreau sees that his way of life pertinent to his writing, for his conviction would go meaningless if not for his own dedication to Transcendentalism. In so many ways Thoreau, himself, is his main character. No fictional character could up ever live up this standard and it would be a great injustice to think of his life merely as a story. He is a revolutionary that has inspired major conquests in civil rights from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr. Great men such as them would have been so implored by a tail where no real person suffered.