Analyze two quotes from Act 2 that are educational or prophetic.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One particularly intense quote from Act II comes from an exchange with Emerson and Thoreau about the power of voting and individual belief. The exchange reflects a profound difference between both thinkers:

Waldo: “I have cast my vote! I’ve done it. I put it in the ballot-box. What more
do you expect me to do?” Henry: “Cast your whole vote. Not just a strip of
paper! Your whole influence!”

When Henry speaks of "your whole influence," it shows the passion and zeal to which Thoreau speaks of one's beliefs and convictions. It is a powerful quote because it indicates how individuals must live out their ideals.  In the process of voting, one does not merely cast a "strip of paper."  Rather, it is a reflection of one's own internal belief system.  When one casts their ballot, they externalize the internal and must embrace it as such, committing their lives towards a system of values.  This is something that Emerson does not believe and the difference between the two is evident in this exchange.

Another quote comes towards the end of this exchange.  Waldo speaks of Henry as a "difficult man."  Thoreau responds: “Good. The world is too full of easy men."  For Thoreau, this quote reflects how individuals must voice dissent and must be "difficult."  Thoreau sees the world filled with people who too easily conform.  They are homogeneous in their desire that "goes along to get along."  This same spirit of conformity is something that both Emerson and Thoreau detest in their writings.  It becomes clear that Thoreau embraces this as part of his value system.  For Thoreau, there is no difference between beliefs written and beliefs felt.  To believe in something with all one's heart is difficult.  It should be a reflection of how difficult one can be in seeking to externalize the internal. There is little in this process that is easy.  When Thoreau speaks of the world being filled with too many "easy men," it is a reflection of how little truth there is our world and even smaller the amount of people who actively believe in it.  Through this, Thoreau constructs a vision of what should be from what is.

Read the study guide:
The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

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