"Meet Mr. Thoreau"

On Civil Disobedience


1. You have been taught to follow the rules and obey the law. How does Thoreau argue against this?

2. Why did Thoreau believe the right to revolution was applicable in his time?

3. What moral obligation does he believe every citizen has? How does this apply to your own life? Does it?

4. What does Thoreau mean when he says, "Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine"?

5. How does he think that a just minority can work its will?

6. Do you agree with Thoreau's theory of civil disobedience, and his general view about the proper relationship between the government and the individual?

Meet Mr. Thoreau

A Plea for Captain John Brown


1. How do Thoreau's neighbors and the newspapers characterize Brown?

2. How does Thoreau characterize him?

3. How does Brown illuminate, for Thoreau, the role of the individual in history?
In what ways does Brown fulfill Thoreau's ideal of heroism? Does he fulfill your definition? Why or why not?

4. In what context does Thoreau mention Christ and the "divine"?

5. What position does Thoreau take regarding violence?

6. Is this article relevant to society today? To you? Is Thoreau too hard on people, in terms of expecting them to take action against social injustice?

Meet Mr. Thoreau



1.  How do you interpret the meaning of the first paragraph?

2. What adjective would you apply to his attitude toward walking, and how does he contrast himself with his neighbors?

3. Why "walk like a camel"?

4. What, according to him, are the preconditions (or requirements) for taking a good walk?

5. He took many walks in Sudbury during his lifetime. Could he take a good walk in Sudbury today?

6. Why, when he walks, is he drawn to the west?

7. Why does he think that "...in wildness is the preservation of the world"? What is the main argument this essay?

8. Why does he call for a "Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance"?

9. Why is his play on words with "sauntering" a key to the meaning of the piece?

10 What impact, if any, did this piece have on you?

Meet Mr. Thoreau

Life Without Principle


1. In what way do many in society live without principle, according to Thoreau?
How would he have them look at life differently?

2. Why is he so critical of those who have participated in the California gold rush? What kind of mining does he approve of?

3. In what ways does he find our culture shallow (see pages 5 &6)? Is any of this still relevant?

4. Does he state or imply a remedy? Is a remedy needed today? If so, what?

All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
Contact Bill Schechter