John Brown's Significant Impact on Thoreau’s Literature Evolution

There is an immense difference in Thoreau’s literature and political stance between the Resistance to Civil Government and a Plea for Captain John Brown, which is fairly significant, and, in my opinion, has changed due to the impact of John Brown. The main reason why I believe Thoreau changed from passivity to aggression is because he was basically tired of all the injustices. Tired of wanting change but with passivity he wasn’t able to be generally successful in the changes he wanted. From my point of view I specifically think he was embodying Captain’s John Brown character and his beliefs. Captain John believed in strong actions rather than passivity. Both literatures gave different perspectives of Thoreau, and reasonable explanations behind them in a subtle way. But let’s not particularly forget the critical time when he wrote both essays; A time when for the most part there was hatred, selfishness, racism, occurring in the country.

Civil Disobedience essentially is unsurprisingly about what Thoreau’s believes are on the government, and its actions. The literature Civil Disobedience was written during a time when slavery was drastically still active, and the United States of America was on war with Mexico over disputed lands in the south. Not surprising Thoreau did not support neither the war or slavery, he instead spoke in favor of antislavery and against war in Mexico. He talks on the wrongfulness of believing the majority decision is always right in a really major way. However, his standpoint changes in A Plea for John Brown, to a more serious one.

The fairly drastic change in Thoreau happened for multiple reasons. Changes in Thoreau’s way of thinking happened for one obvious reason. One is because he was tired of the government injustices. In particular the injustices of African Americans. Also, of the people for not taking notice of the abolitionists like Captain John Brown in a definitely big way. From A Plea for John Brown and personal research, one can say that he was a prominent figure in the 1800’s. As Thoreau explained on behalf of John Brown character by saying, “No man in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human nature.” Thoreau was impacted immensely by the unfair death of Brown, and the negligence from the government and citizens to recognize his heroic stance in abolition. It seems like nobody escaped from Thoreau’s outrage; He criticized all Christians for focusing on themselves and worrying only on the “long rest”. Most of Thoreau’s anger came from looking at newspapers, mayors, citizens, saying Brown was insane, misguided, and vengeful. Thus, Thoreau wrote in a way to debunk their statements, and turn the finger pointing from Brown to the critics. The critics who said Brown was an insane man merely because he was different and not passive like all other abolitionists. Brown stated, “These men all are talk. What we need is action-action!” That brings me to my next point; Thoreau must have written A Plea for Captain John Brown while trying to embody brown himself.

In A Plea for John Brown, he speaks about the same circumstances as in his previous poems but with a more fiercer tone, as if he was trying to get the point across people’s minds. John Brown spoke with such aggression. He questioned the people and the future of the United States. Overall, the problem was that Thoreau knew what the government was all about but did not understand the severity of its ignorance. The government did not value Captain Browns heroic attempts to liberate the slave in Virginia. Instead, the event was seen an unusual “pluck.”

Last but not least, despite Thoreau criticizing the federal government and slavery, he ended the literature by being hopeful of the future. Many historians have said, Browns act of bravery may have led to the souths secessions and the American Civil War. There were not many like Captain John Brown who fought for the rights of other people. Browns actions along with Thoreau’s literature may have contributed to the wave of a revolution. This wave was a switch from passive to being more open minded, aggressive, and also having a free speech. In my own opinion, this literature opened the eyes of many people as to what the government was capable of doing and what was occurring behind closed doors. It exposed all of the corruptive actions that the government had done. But at the same time, spread awareness of the misinformation provided from the government to keep the United States close minded about slavery. Captain Brown may have failed at Harpers ferry, but this impact was not for forgotten by Thoreau and many other historians who still write about this heroism in the liberation of slaves.     

07 July 2022
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