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Comparative Essay Martin Luther King, Jr.’s letter while imprisoned in the Birmingham jail maintains very similar characteristics to the essay “Civil Disobedience” written by Henry David Thoreau. King attempts to illustrate the plight of the black individual, emphasizing how to achieve liberty through non-violent action and perseverance…
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Download file to see previous pages Though they were written 114 years apart, both individuals reinforce the importance of providing liberty and freedom for all men, illustrating that freedom has been a major issue in history that has caught the attention of very prominent historical figures. King makes sure that the reader understands that oppression is a danger to those who deserve freedom. He insists that it must be demanded by individuals who are being oppressed if there are to be any changes to tyranny or domination by hostile forces desiring to limit the liberties of members of society. King believes that in order for positive changes to occur for securing liberty, action must be initiated immediately. King is concerned that “do nothingism” of American culture (King para. 23) serves as a catalyst for denying independence, therefore trying to spark action with the audience, the clergymen, to emphasize the importance of African-Americans in taking responsibility for securing their own self-determination against oppressive forces in society. Thoreau, additionally, is attempting to spark action in the reader with the concepts and descriptions described in his essay. Thoreau asks men to take autonomy in assessing the role of government in the lives of citizens in order to provide more freedoms and liberties. Thoreau tries to spark action with the audience about the role of government, asking the reader to consider what type of government would be most appropriate for providing respect, which he believes is a step toward making progress in removing the oppressive force of government tyranny. Much like King, Thoreau sees influence of domineering regimes in society that try to remove choice and free will as being unacceptable and ones that require direct action by thoughtful members of society. King considers, in his letter, that the rights of men, whether black or white, are God-given and guaranteed to all citizens. He emphasizes the moral responsibility of providing liberties to all citizens, using God as an appropriate reference to get the reader motivated to take action for their own autonomy from oppression. He believes that the unjust laws of men are dangerous because it conflicts with God’s intentions about equality of men, suggesting that any law which does this is largely unjust. Thoreau has a very similar view, however without the strong religious connotations that are present in King’s work. Thoreau sees the notion of moral conscience as being the foundations of what provides liberty and independence, much like King seeing the powerful government as being unjust and without conscience for securing the well-being of men. Thoreau compares the military of the time as being forced to fight against their own consciences by strong government, making them only a silhouette of what actually constitutes inherent humanity in men. The comparison with King’s work in this case is that government represents a danger to the God-given or in-borne ethics and morality of humankind. Thoreau compares military men as machines, coerced to remove their principles and ethical attitudes in order to serve the state. Similarly, King describes the forced complacency of historical slaves to this same type of obligation to serve the oppressor that leads to social insensitivity for the needs of fellow men. Thoreau also references the voting process, believing that it does nothing at all for securing virtue and liberty in ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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