The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

by Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee

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What is the importance of style in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail?

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One element of the drama's style that is significant is its Expressionist style.  The stylistic manner of the drama seeks to "bend" reality in accordance to what should be from what is.  This style is effective because it is reflective of Thoreau's transformative understanding of reality.  The use of flashbacks, dream sequence, and the non- linear nature of these help to reflect an Expressionist style that mirrors Thoreau's freedom of thought and action.  For Thoreau, there is a non- conformity that extends into how one perceives reality.  This is evident in both his thought expressed in the drama as well as the style of the drama.  The disjointed style and one that constantly changes is reflective of Thoreau's thought and his unwillingness to embrace an external standard of the linear and predictable.  The style of the drama is effective because it reflects Thoreau's own thought and reflective analysis.  As Thoreau is confronted with challenging elements in reality such as activism, despair, and disillusion, the style mirrors such intensity.

Another element of the drama's style is how time and space are configured.  This is effective in presentation because it reflects Thoreau's belief as to how individual freedom can be defining and all encompassing.  Thoreau believes that individuals freedom can be empowering and enable the individual to change both themselves and the world around them.  It is in this light where the drama's style that shifts from time and space orientation in the form of flashback, vision, subjective thought, and external vision is reflective of Thoreau's own zeal behind human freedom.  Human freedom is shown both in Thoreau's mind and in the style of the play to be transformative and defining, able to make statements that suspend and alter time and space dimensions.

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