The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail
• In order to fully understand any written play,
one must first understand the jargon and
what it means.
• Setting: describes where and when a story
takes place. In a play, setting can change
depending on the “set” or room, place, time
that the play is being dramatized in.
• We define characters by what they say and
do in a drama. We can already see what they
look like because of the actors.
• Sometimes characters are defined indirectly,
or through the eyes of others.
• The theme of a play or piece of literature is
simply the main idea or message that is
intended by the author. There are three or
four major themes in the human story
according to Willa Cather.
1. Sacrificial giving of one’s self to others:
example-The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
2. The struggle for freedom: example- I Know
Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
3. Parent/child relationships: example-The Joy
Luck Club by Amy Tan
• Stage direction is necessary to the function
of the drama. It tells the stage crew where
to place the props, tells the actors how they
are to communicate their lines and where to
move on the stage. It is important to lighting
crew because lighting often signifies where
the action is taking place, sets the mood and
helps the audience to focus on the theme of
the play itself.
• Without stage direction, there would be
chaos on stage. Stage directions are always
written in italics. Take a look at this short
dramatic sample and analyze the stage
• There are several forms of conflict in any
literary piece, whether it is fiction, non
fiction, drama, poetry or prose.
• Man vs. Nature
• Man vs. Man
• Man vs. Himself
• Man vs. His Environment
Map out the play
• Using the Interactive Drama Map at the link
above, map out the play as you read for
clarity and understanding.
• What was the conflict that Thoreau faced on
a daily basis?
• How does this conflict lend to the play’s
• What symbols do we read about in the play
that demonstrate the conflicts?
What is the theme of the play?
• Watch the scene where Henry & Waldo are
discussing ethics and one’s voice. Listen and
watch for symbolic representations.
• Why is one’s voice so important in the
• What issues today echo from Thoreau’s
• Are there new issues/a new human theme?
Symbolism in Poetry
• Read the following
poem by Langston
• As I Grew Older
It was a long time
I have almost
forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun--
And then the wall
Between me and my
Rose until it touched
I am black.
I lie down in the
No longer the light of
my dream before me,
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My dark hands!
Break through the
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights
Into a thousand
• What symbols did you see in the poem?
• What did they represent?
• What human theme was Hughes describing?
• What lines or phrases indicate the theme?
• Was there conflict?
• What was it?
• How do you know?