The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

by Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee
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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 326

  • Research the causes, conditions, and outcomes of the Mexican-American War, choosing one prominent military or political figure from both Mexico and the United States of America who took part in the conflict. Imagine that these two leaders have been invited to appear on a modern-day, televised debate show to defend their viewpoints about, and actions during, the war. Write a short script or scenario that depicts what might happen during this debate.
  • Research the main beliefs of transcendentalists in the mid-nineteenth century and the beliefs of hippies in the 1960s and 1970s. Putting yourself in the place of Henry David Thoreau, imagine that he has traveled through time to the early 1970s. Incorporating your research from both major belief systems, write a journal entry that describes how he might have contributed to or been affected by the Vietnam antiwar movement.
  • Freedom fighting is a common theme throughout human history. Pick a non-American, pre-1800s society that had to fight for its freedom, and research the history of the struggle, focusing especially on ways that this society fought against or protested its oppression. How do these compare to the methods used by Thoreau or the Vietnam antiwar movement? Discuss any significant figures who led the protest or fight.
  • In the play, Thoreau says at the end that he cannot afford to just stay at Walden anymore and that he needs to be more active in his fight with society. Research Thoreau's life after the jail incident, and use this information to discuss whether or not his efforts to effect change society were successful.
  • The expressionistic techniques that Lawrence and Lee used in their play were also prevalent in other visual arts in the twentieth century, such as painting and film. Choose a visual medium, and find an example of a work that you feel accurately represents at least one of the main themes of the play. Discuss the history behind the work, including how it was received.

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