In The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, how does Thoreau feel about Waldo's wife? How does he choose to live according to his beliefs? 

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chsmith1957 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

These questions refer to the scene late in Act 1, when Waldo, Lydian, and Henry meet in Waldo’s study. Henry jokes around with Lydian; the two will become friends. Later in the play, he will be annoyed when she delivers a note of regret on behalf of her husband. Here the Emersons hire Henry as a handyman and as a companion to their son, Edward. Waldo insists on paying the man for his services. Henry has different ideas about “payment,” saying that he’s already been compensated in part for being permitted to hear one of Waldo’s inspirational lectures. But he also learns that the Emersons own a parcel of woods. He asks if he could use it someday for an “experiment” – foreshadowing his move to Emerson’s property at the edge of Walden Pond. This permission is seen as a payment of sorts. The land will be valuable in a way to Henry, without him having to own it or to pay for it. As for his choice to live as he sees fit and according to his personal beliefs, Henry says:

Why spend the best part of your life earning money so that you can enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it? Why work like a dog so you can pant for a moment or two before you die?

He would rather have “a broad margin” to his life now, and to do as he pleases, than to save up for some future retirement and to not be able to live his days fully in the meantime.

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The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

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