A detailed analysis of Thoreau’s most famous essay, usually titled “Civil Disobedience,” but more correctly titled “Resistance to Civil Government.” (Ironically the term “civil disobedience” is never used in this essay and furthermore never appears in Thoreau’s writings.)
The background and importance of the essay are established in the first section of the handout. The seven major themes of it are then examined through the use of illustrative passages. The third section analyzes the essay paragraph-by-paragraph so that your students may follow the brilliance of its structure.
As an addendum to the answer key, I have included four long notes, titled “To the Teacher,” which deal with areas not covered in the handout. These notes examine topics which your students may ask about or correct apocryphal stories which have arisen about Thoreau’s night in jail, the consequence of his “resistance to civil government.”
My handout, which has blanks that your students can fill in, is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity. As mentioned, an answer key with four notes is provided on two separate pages at the end of the handout.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.