In Act Two, Waldo, quarreling with Henry, asks: "Could your woodchuks, with all their wisdom, have saved [the murdered fugitive slave] Henry Williams? Are your fish going to build roads, teach...

In Act Two, Waldo, quarreling with Henry, asks: "Could your woodchuks, with all their wisdom, have saved [the murdered fugitive slave] Henry Williams? Are your fish going to build roads, teach school, put out fires?" Discuss these critiques of Henry's way of life.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Waldo's critique of Henry is one in which the basic value of philosophy is raised.  Essentially, the argument here is whether or not Henry's way of life and his philosophy amounts to anything substantive.  Waldo's argument is that Thoreau's love and reverence for nature does not translate into anything practical or pragmatic.  Waldo's point is that Williams' death is not going to be averted with a love of nature or a belief that huckleberries fertilize the Earth.  In many ways, Waldo's ideas to Thoreau are more of a justification of his own inaction.  It is this point where I think that the most is revealed in Waldo's words.  Waldo is critiquing the value of Thoreau's ideas.  However, it is brought about by a challenge of Waldo's own philosophical tenets, reflective of Henry's beliefs that one should live what is said.  Waldo seems to be of the mindset that one can separate their ideas from how they live, something that Thoreau does not accept.  Waldo's words reflect this difference, and Henry's opposition to such a notion reflects how he zealously believes in the convergence between thought and action.

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