51 pages 1 hour read

Henry David Thoreau

Civil Disobedience

Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | Published in 1849

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“Civil Disobedience”

  • Genre: Nonfiction; political/social essay
  • Originally Published: 1849
  • Reading Level/Interest: Lexile 1340L; grades 11-12; college/adult
  • Structure/Length: Approx. 28 pages; approx. 4 hours, 48 minutes on audio
  • Central Concern: Thoreau’s political discourse examines ways in which government hinders society, including its interference with civil liberties, and explores the role and obligation of the individual when that government is flawed.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Morality; government’s role in society

Henry David Thoreau, Author

  • Bio: 1817-1862; lived chiefly in or near Concord, MA throughout his life; graduated from Harvard in 1837; studied Transcendentalism with Ralph Waldo Emerson; teacher, lecturer, writer, naturalist, abolitionist; maintained a modest income and lifestyle; gained posthumous fame and left a long-lasting influence on political and social leaders throughout the world with this work
  • Other Works: Walden

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Unit:

  • Individualism and the Government
  • Fighting Injustice With Passive Resistance
  • Anti-Materialism and Self-Reliance

STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Unit, students will:

  • Develop an understanding of the social and philosophical contexts surrounding the transcendentalist movement that impacted Thoreau’s perspective on government.
  • Analyze short paired texts and other resources to make connections with the text’s theme of Fighting Injustice With Passive Resistance.
  • Conduct research that demonstrates the effects of Thoreau’s writings on later activists, connecting research findings to text details.