The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Theme Icon

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail focuses on the importance of teaching, learning, and education, especially because both Waldo and Henry are teachers of sorts. But the play also wonders what constitutes a “real” education. The school board controls the learning that students do in school, and Henry (when he is still employed by the board) laments that their learning is limited and controlled by administrative interests. At the same time, however, Henry notes that thought can’t actually be controlled by governing bodies, no matter how hard the governing bodies try. When he is in jail, he gestures to (the notably imaginary) walls around him and victoriously notes that these walls cannot constrain his thoughts, which can sail through them like a “rock through the air.” The government can control information, but it will never be able to control thought, so long as citizens like Henry keep their minds open.

The play also explores the difference between practical experiential learning and abstract learning. Waldo learns from books and lectures, while Henry learns from “being”—he believes a classroom is an inferior place for learning. But Henry would never have become Henry without attending Harvard and being inspired by Waldo. The two of them together make up a kind of cycle of education and learning in which the “thinkers” and the “doers” both have their place.

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Education, Thought, Information, and Learning ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Education, Thought, Information, and Learning appears in each act of The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Education, Thought, Information, and Learning Quotes in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail

Below you will find the important quotes in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail related to the theme of Education, Thought, Information, and Learning.
Act 1 Quotes

“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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 2 Quotes

Seems to me I’ve got several more lives to live.

Related Characters: Henry David Thoreau (speaker), Bailey
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.