A comparative (also contemporary) text for Henry D. Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience?"
January 14, 2008 9:21 PM   Subscribe

What contemporary text (including, books, newspapers, magazines, music, movies, or television) can I compare to Henry David Throreau's "Civil Disobedience." The text must no more that 25 years old.

I am doing an assignment for my literature class and I must find a piece to relate to Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience." I've come with some ideas on my own but I was wondering what you guys thought; everything that I have conjured up seems to be hard to write about.

I will be writing a one page essay including:
-Specific definition of the American Dream that matches both texts
-Analysis of the literary works (character or theme)
-Comparison of the social, political, or economic issues of the time period

Any input would be greatly appreciated.
posted by meta.mark to Education (23 answers total)
I was going to say Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", but it's not in the 25 year range. I actually did this exact assignment comparing those two. You should maybe ask permission to use it, since the relationship is pretty straight forward.
posted by Corduroy at 9:32 PM on January 14, 2008

Why are you asking us to do your homework/research?
posted by bonobo at 9:34 PM on January 14, 2008

People ask for research help all the time here. I don't think this is out of line. If the OP is being honest, he's already made an effort and is looking for help.
posted by Corduroy at 9:40 PM on January 14, 2008

Stewart Brand's talk at the first Hacker's Conference in 1984.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:05 PM on January 14, 2008

Sure would be easier if you went back 40 years instead of 25, but maybe try the writings of Daniel and Philip Berrigan, whose Plowshares Movement continued their 60s civil disobedience into the 80s and beyond, banging on nuclear warheads with hammers, spilling their own blood on fighter planes, etc. This obit for Philip mentions a couple of books, including his autobiography.
posted by mediareport at 10:16 PM on January 14, 2008

Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Beautiful essays about living alone in the woods. She is aware of the parallel and refers to Thoreau several times.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:35 PM on January 14, 2008

That is a big "if," Corduroy. I'm not questioning your statement about the general goals of ask.metafilter (or your character, for that matter.)

Have you looked at OP's history?
posted by bonobo at 10:36 PM on January 14, 2008

Whoops, never mind -- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was published in 1974.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:37 PM on January 14, 2008

Response by poster: @ Bonobo
I have done some research it's just that I wanted the peoples' opinions from metafilter. Also because everything that I've found so far doesn't seem to "mesh that well with Thoreau's paper.

posted by meta.mark at 10:47 PM on January 14, 2008

How about one of the anarchist communiques released during the WTO protests in Seattle?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:51 PM on January 14, 2008

Or you could go the other direction. Some manifesto by a white power organization, or some of the militia literature that inspired McVeigh.

What I'm trying to say here is that the maybe most engaging thing might be to go out on a limb. Be a provocateur. Call Thoreau a coddled narcissist. You know.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:55 PM on January 14, 2008

But, man, it looks like you've just been googling "civil disobedience". That's a B- paper if I've ever seen one.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:56 PM on January 14, 2008

One more thought, and then I'm done: bin Laden.

There's civil disobedience for you.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:04 PM on January 14, 2008

Does your research involve anything in your library?

Your instructor might want you to think for yourself and/or practice research skills.

I hate to be the old bastard/bitch (no, seriously, I DO HATE that) in a thread, but can you not summarize what issues you have with even your online resources? I'm not reading those pages, especially if you cannot be bothered with learning how to make web links for them.

Back in the day, people actually gave money to "nerds" to do their research and/or write papers for them.

Let it be further asserted that I adore online resources and I am a university student. Still, I realize that I am paying to learn. While I may not always have use for the textbooks or instructors, the processes involved with gathering and parsing information (for whatever purposes) helped me develop.

Furthermore, I'm not doing your homework. I have already written an essays-worth of words. Any instructor (or keyword searching program an instructor or university employs--whether they tell you or not) worth a shit (toward your degree that's worth a shit) will see through your B.S.
posted by bonobo at 11:18 PM on January 14, 2008

Bonobo -- chill out or take it to MeTa.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:27 PM on January 14, 2008

meta.mark, just searching the web for "civil disobedience" is an ok first step, but a better bet would be to sit back and think....
What was Thoreau's purpose?
What are some contexts/issues today where a citizen/group might want to do a similar thing -- resist what the government (or some other large, powerful entity like a corporation) is doing? Are there issues that affect college students specifically? Loans/tuition, music downloading, freeing phones from their networks, something to do with online communities, video games or online gaming, credit cards? There have been protests about the current wars and Guantanamo Bay; does that interest you?

Then you can search for influential thinkers (or novels, movies, songs, etc) who are interested in the issues you've identified, maybe including "civil disobedience" as an extra search term.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:50 PM on January 14, 2008

The book "Into the Wild" might fit perfectly - the movie captures the essence as well.
posted by Unsomnambulist at 12:24 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

The American Dream? I did a comparison of the American Dream in On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson and referenced Henry Thoreau - perhaps one of those would be interesting.
posted by swisspotter at 1:17 AM on January 15, 2008

So Thoreau got himself thrown into jail for the non-payment of taxes he didn't believe were fair. He got out, because some anonymous benefactor paid the taxes. So even though he proposed civil disobediance on such issues, he was also practical, perhaps even pragmatic about it. So Michael Moore calls on the American people to act on all sorts of issues, but I understand, he's pretty pragmatic about the way he sets up his documentaries, so that he can make a point about a truth, without it being a literal truth.

And speaking of truths, whatabout an inconvenient one. Doesn't Al Gore call on us to make changes in our lives that are different to the norm, as did Thoreau, on the principle of the issue?

I leave the rest as an exercise for the OP. I think you can fit the American Dream into both those scenarios as well as the other stuff.
posted by b33j at 1:24 AM on January 15, 2008

Check out the essays linked in this thread. Curtis White wants people to simplify their lives and stop participating in capitalism.

And then there's the Unabomber... Oh yeah, in my two second review of each, the Unabomber is totally a violent Thoreau.
posted by salvia at 1:50 AM on January 15, 2008

Whoops, are we not supposed to be helping so he can find the answer himself?
posted by salvia at 1:52 AM on January 15, 2008

The Unabomber Manifesto.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:56 AM on January 15, 2008

Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence
posted by history is a weapon at 7:11 AM on January 15, 2008

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