Henry David Thoreau held strong beliefs about freedom and justice.
He did not believe in obeying authority for its own sake.
He wrote, "Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will
mind it." When he broke a rule he did not feel was right,
he was prepared for the consequences. "Under a government
which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for
a just man is in prison."
Being in the outdoors meant freedom to Henry. In Henry
Climbs a Mountain, when he was put in jail for not paying his
taxes, he remembered his experiences and used his imagination
to invoke the freedom taken from him. He took out his
crayons, and on the wall he drew a hummingbird, a tree, and a
path that crossed a river. Before he knew it his shoes were
wet. He drew a mountain and climbed it, singing, "The bear
goes over the mountain." The more he remembered, the more
he imagined and the more he drew. Soon the whole outside
world was with him in his cell.
Have your students create a mural of meaningful things from
nature. Cover a wall with drawing paper and allow them to
draw one of their own outdoor experiences.
Henry's drawing was an expression of freedom. In it he met a
traveler on the mountain. Who is the traveler? What clues
does the author give you? What did the traveler mean when
he said he was walking "As far as the star in the North?" Why
would Henry give the stranger his shoes? Why do you suppose the traveler didn't spend the night in town? Henry and the
traveler laughed and sang more songs. One of the songs may
well have been "Follow the Drinking Gourd." You can find the
lyrics to the song, along with an explanation of the text, at the
NASA Quest Educational Web site
When Henry got out of jail, Sam asked him, "How does it feel to
be free?" Henry responded, "It feels like being on top of a very tall
mountain." Discuss this expression as a simile, and the title,
Henry Climbs a Mountain
, as a metaphor.