Thoreau's essay on civil disobedience not only gives a startlingly strong argument against paying one's taxes (which is in itself a difficult task), it also gives a subtle but clear image of Thoreau himself. In this essay, the reader discovers a writer who is at once romantic and cynical, idealistically self-sacrificing and fiercely self-centered, areligious and mystical. It would be tempting to portray Thoreau as inconsistent or somehow duplicitous, but it would be more accurate to recognize him as merely complex.
The romantic in Thoreau comes through clearly when he describes his experience in jail, where "It was like traveling into a far country, such as I had never expected to behold, to lie there for one night... It was to see my native village in the light of the Middle Ages, and our Concord was turned into a Rhine stream, and visions of knights and...
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