Compare And Contrast Thoreau And Civil Disobedience

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In the 1800s, shortly before Congress passed the second Fugitive Slave Act, an abolitionist named Henry David Thoreau published “Civil Disobedience.” Being an opponent of the Polk administration, and more specifically the Mexican War, Thoreau wrote “Civil Disobedience” as a way to persuade his fellow citizens to follow their morals and values rather than fall victim to the Federal government’s ideologies and beliefs. Furthermore, “Civil Disobedience” challenged its readers to “defy the law and the Constitution” of the United States (407). About eighty years later in 1936, George Orwell wrote “Shooting an Elephant” (307). In the essay, Orwell described a memorable experience of his time as an officer in imperialist Burma. “Shooting an Elephant” is a narrative account of Orwell’s encounter with a rogue elephant, acting as an extended metaphor for imperialistic England. Both essays revolve around governmental motifs. Based on the historic and political structures of England and the United States, these governments tended to have defining, principle ideologies; however, without independent thought from their citizens, and a sense of individualized identity amongst their citizens, England and the United States lost their defining morals and values. In “Civil Disobedience” and “Shooting an Elephant,” Thoreau and Orwell convey the common theme of of political activity rather than passivity—albeit in very different ways—which is especially important in America’s current political
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