Sunday, April 15, 2012

Emerson and Thoreau's Relationship

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Emerson and Thoreau’s Relationship

Thoreau and Emerson spearheaded the Transcendentalist Movement, which flourished in America during the 1830s- 1850s. The play, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, showed Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau’s intricate relationship. Emerson said in the play, “Sometimes I think I invented you, Henry. Or at least prophesied you. Because you live what I talk about” (Lawrence and Lee). Thoreau is Emerson’s pupil, however, they both learn plenty from each other. In The Night Thoreau spent in Jail, Thoreau and Emerson inspires one another, disappoints one another, and have alternating master student relationships.

Thoreau and Emerson inspire one another throughout the play. Emerson inspires Thoreau by his ideas of non-conformity. Thoreau learned that it is important to “Cast conformity behind you” (Lawrence and Lee). Thoreau proclaims his respect, in the beginning of the play, for Emerson, when his brother John asked him if he had any idea of what he wanted to be. Thoreau answered, “Yes, I know exactly. I want to be as much as possible like Ralph Waldo Emerson” (Lawrence and Lee). Emerson motivates Thoreau by is ideas, and Thoreau inspires Emerson by his actions. “But my God, you are EMERSON! Darling of the Lyceum, Lord of the Lecture Circuit! Every word you say from the platform is treasured, like an heirloom” (Lawrence and Lee). Thoreau says this when he tried to encourage Emerson to speak out. It is made obvious that Emerson is Thoreau’s hero in this play. Although, Thoreau has so much respect for Emerson, Emerson has equally the same amount of respect for Thoreau. “But I admire you, Henry, I really do. You’re my walking ethic” (Lawrence and Lee).

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As much as Emerson and Thoreau adore one another, there are times that they disappoint each other. Emerson is mostly disappointed with how Thoreau is extreme in his actions. Although the two share the same ideas, Emerson doesn’t believe in complicating things or rushing things, to advocate his thoughts.

You complicate things all the more by rushing them. You’re a naturalist, Henry. You understand the slow evolving of the seasons. It’s the same with human relationships. You can’t rush a sunrise. (Lawrence and Lee)

Emerson cares for Thoreau and doesn’t like to see him in jail. Thoreau believes that Emerson abuses his popularity. Emerson is so highly respected that he should promote his ideas more, and speak up when he knows something isn’t right. Henry shows his frustration when he’s in jail, “I expect more from you than anybody else; that’s why I’m more disappointed in you” (Lawrence and Lee ). Thoreau strongly believes that actions speak louder than words, and that Emerson should live up to his words of wisdom. Thoreau tells Emerson to shout with his mind and not his mouth. And when Emerson asks what Thoreau is doing in jail, Thoreau furiously replied by asking what Emerson was doing out of jail.

Thoreau and Emerson have alternating student master relationships. Emerson is the technical teacher, but throughout the play, Thoreau teaches Emerson many things. Their relationship is comparable to two people on a see- saw, when one is up the other is down. For example, at the beginning of the play Thoreau admired Emerson as a teacher figure. But as the play wears on, Thoreau uses Emerson’s theory to build his own, and Emerson learns from him. During Emerson’s visit to Thoreau in prison, lots of ideas and theories were exchanged through their bitter arguing. Emerson teaches Thoreau the ideas. And Thoreau teaches Emerson how to carry out the ideas.

In The Night Thoreau spent in Jail, Thoreau and Emerson inspires one another, disappoints one another, and have alternating master student relationships. Individually they would have made strong transcendentalists, but because they were together they are famous for their work.


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