Civil Disobedience

Democracy in Question

America has long been recognized as a democratic nation, a nation operating under the will of the people. The forefathers of America fought incessantly against British tyranny to start anew in a land of freedom and opportunity. Because America revived the ancient Greek ideology of democracy, the nation was set apart from the rest of the world and was revered for the freedom and justice it provided its people. However, not everyone thinks that American democracy means freedom and liberty. On the contrary, writers such as Henry David Thoreau in "Civil Disobedience" and "Slavery in Massachusetts," along with Herman Melville in "Benito Cereno" and "Bartleby the Scrivener," suggest that democracy can actually oppress and restrict the individual.

In "Civil Disobedience," Thoreau criticizes the American government for its democratic nature, namely, the idea of majority ruling. Like earlier transcendentalists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau believes in the importance of the individual. In a society where there are many individuals with conflicting perceptions and beliefs, Emerson chooses passivity and isolation to avoid conflict with others. However, unlike Emerson, Thoreau rejects...

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