In The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, what does the huckleberry hunting mean symbolically?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The huckleberry hunting enters this play at the beginning of Act II and is a powerful symbol that is used throughout the text to indicate Henry's approach to learning and education. Lydian sents Edward and Henry to go hucklberry hunting, and Henry uses this as an opportunity to teach the younger Edward about education and how it should be conducted.

The act of hunting for huckleberries acts as a perfect metaphor. For Henry, education is not something that should be delivered to us and pumped into us like a car is filled with gas. Instead, education is a process that we should become active participants of ourselves. Just as they are seeking out huckleberries, so we should seek out truth and find it ourselves, not leaving others to deliver it to us. Henry criticises the traditional system of education that seems to divorce students and learners from the process of seeking out the truth and finding it ourselves. Huckleberry hunting therefore becomes the perfect metaphor to explain and describe Henry's approach to education and his beliefs about it.


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