The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

by Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee

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Who appears in Thoreau's beanfield in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail?

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This incident happens in Act 2. Thoreau is back at Walden woods, playing his flute, while a black man scurries around in the bushes. He turns out to be a runaway slave named Williams, and he’s heading for Canada. Thoreau gives him bread to eat and has a good conversation with him. Williams doesn’t have a first name, but he starts to think that Henry would make a good one. Thoreau agrees. The man finally feels free, by having a real name. He asks if he can stay at Walden and hide. Thoreau tells him that he must find his own Walden, and that there still is a kind of slavery in Massachusetts, too. He must go where skin color makes no difference; he should continue on his way to Canada. Unfortunately, in the next scene—a conversation between Thoreau and Emerson—we learn that Williams has been caught and killed. Thoreau is agitated by this tragedy and wants to stir Emerson to action over it.

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