The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

Ralph Waldo Emerson Character Analysis

Henry’s mentor, whom Henry met while at Harvard. “Waldo” is a deeply respected and famous scholar and lecturer. Though he is intellectually deft and very insightful with respect to abstract concepts, Henry argues that Waldo is too concerned about public opinion to speak out, as Henry does, against segregation and the war. Waldo is modeled on the real historical figure Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom the real Henry David Thoreau knew well and was a leading thinker in the Transcendentalist movement.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

The The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail quotes below are all either spoken by Ralph Waldo Emerson or refer to Ralph Waldo Emerson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History and the Importance of Learning from the Past Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Hill and Wang edition of The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail published in 2001.
Act 1 Quotes

“I’ve forgotten the name of my best friend!”

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), Henry David Thoreau
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

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“Cast conformity behind you!”
“Cast…Conformity…Behind You…!”

Related Characters: Henry David Thoreau (speaker), Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

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I want to be as much as possible like Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Related Characters: Henry David Thoreau (speaker), Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

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For you and me, deacon, the declaration of Independence has already been written. Young Thoreau has to declare it every day.

Related Characters: Ralph Waldo Emerson (speaker), Henry David Thoreau, Deacon Ball
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

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Ralph Waldo Emerson Character Timeline in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

The timeline below shows where the character Ralph Waldo Emerson appears in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
History and the Importance of Learning from the Past Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
The old man, Waldo, stops suddenly and asks his wife, “What was his name?” Lydian is confused, and Waldo... (full context)
History and the Importance of Learning from the Past Theme Icon
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
...and “not done” something. This conversation bleeds into the conversation being held between Lydian and Waldo, where they struggle to remember Henry. Lydian recalls that he was strange, but that she... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Waldo stands up and appears younger. He takes his place at a podium. Upon seeing him... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
...backside on Harvard.” Henry says that he will strive to be as much like Ralph Waldo Emerson as possible. (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
The light fades on the brothers and rises on Waldo and Lydian again. Lydian tells Waldo that he gave a splendid lecture. Waldo worries aloud... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
Meanwhile, on a different part of the stage, Waldo takes his pulpit and begins to speak about “the wonder of the Universal Mind.” Henry... (full context)
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
...that he is resigning. Ball recedes into the shadows and the lights come up on Waldo, who announces that he is resigning as pastor of the Unitarian Church in Boston. Henry... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Waldo steps in with some good-natured jokes, and explains that for Henry, the American Declaration of... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
The lights fade and then come back up on Henry and Waldo talking. They are making arrangements for Henry to work for Waldo—he wants to do manual... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
...questions Sam asks him. Then lights come up on Lydian reading a letter. She tells Waldo that Henry has been sent to jail. As Waldo takes the note, the lights rise... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Waldo says he must go help Henry, and rushes out. Meanwhile, Henry is telling Sam that... (full context)
Act 2
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
...be his father. Lydian lightly asks Edward, what about his real father? Edward complains that Waldo is never around because he is always traveling and making speeches. He also asks his... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
...between Lydian and Henry. She says perhaps he should not work around the house while Waldo is away. Henry tells her not to be afraid of him, then remarks that he... (full context)
History and the Importance of Learning from the Past Theme Icon
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
The lights come up on Henry and Waldo in the midst of an argument. Waldo is insisting that he’s “cast his vote” and... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Henry pleads with Waldo—he is an Emerson, and he can make a difference if he would only use his... (full context)
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
...center of the stage, where Henry is rallying a crowd of people, telling them that Waldo will be making an important announcement. The crowd grows restless as time passes and there... (full context)
History and the Importance of Learning from the Past Theme Icon
Protest, Resistance, Community, and Action Theme Icon
War Theme Icon
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon
Complacency, Conformity, and Responsibility Theme Icon
...to “always do the right thing, even if it’s wrong.” Then the President appears: it’s Waldo. Everyone begins to chant “go along” with “demonic glee.” They begin to attack a Mexican... (full context)