Comparing Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and King's Letter From a Birmingham Jail Essay

Comparing Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail The two essays, “Civil Disobedience,” by Henry David Thoreau, and “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King, Jr., effectively illustrate the authors’ opinions of justice. Each author has his main point; Thoreau, in dealing with justice as it relates to government, asks for “not at once no government, but at once a better government. King contends that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

” Both essays offer a complete argument for justice, but, given the conditions, King’s essay remains more effective, in that its persuasive techniques have more practical application. Both essays extensively implement both …show more content…

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The biblical allusions Thoreau chooses to use are another matter entirely. They support his essay in a negative way. Instead of instilling a sense of pride and hope in the reader, such as King’s, they simply illustrate some things that are wrong with society.

Doubtless this was Thoreau’s intent, and they work better with the tone of his piece, but the simple fact is that King’s positive illusions work better than Thoreau’s negative allusions on an emotional level. One example of a biblical allusion that Thoreau uses is in reference to legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders: “. . ..serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it, as God.” Later Thoreau uses another: “I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name, – if ten honest men only, – ay, if one honest man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America.” This expresses the importance of the individual, but as a secondary thought reveals how the shortage of .

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