What would be a thesis statement for The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail involving either individuality, freedom, or conformity?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We editors do not write thesis statement for students; however advise may be given:

Henry David Thoreau, one of the greatest individualists of America, wrote,

How does it become a man to behave towards the American government today?  I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.

He also said these words--words quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr.,in the letter from the Birmingham City Jail on April 16, 1963:

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.

From what Thoreau has written in these lines and in his "Resistance to Civil Government," his non-conformity and resistance to authority are salient forces in his thoughts and writings.  His refusal to pay a tax that supported the Mexican War was a very individualistic act that, in its non-conformity, brought to light issues that Thoreau felt should not be supported.  Thus Thoreau's non-conformity in going to jail to "expresses the very highest respect for the law"--that which follows the constitution--and is an act of individuality that brings to light three points which you can develop. 

Further, in the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee, Thoreau also meets a slave, so the recurrent theme of resistance to the popular acceptance of slavery would also be a point to consider including as the idea of being chained to institutions is a violation of one's individuality.


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The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

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