Where, in the course of this drama, did the character of Henry strike you as paradoxical?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would actually suggest that in his interactions with Bailey, there exists some moments of paradox in Henry's character.  The idea of breaking free from society's chains and standing up for what is right can be seen in Bailey's request for Henry to be his lawyer.  Henry has a moment where he can "act locally."  Yet, he refuses to do so.  Henry also teaches Bailey to write his name and then demands that he "unlearn it."  I think that this is a paradox because Henry, whose insistence on individuals following their own voice becomes intrinsic to his character, is demanding that Bailey do what Henry says.  In the end, it seems like Bailey is the perfect moment for Henry to focus on the embodiment of his philosophy.  Yet, there are instances in which Henry seems to be attracted to a bigger and larger cause, as opposed to truly understanding that the cause can exist on the smallest of levels, namely with his own vagrant of a cellmate.  I sense that in his interactions with Bailey, some moments of Thoreau's own paradoxical character is evident.

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The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

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