I remember in my early years in education, being an eighth-grade English teacher, one day my assistant principal asked if he could visit my classroom in order to teach a lesson in situational irony. Of course I obliged. He was a wonderful AP, since retired, who used to come in upon occasion and interact with the kids. Being a history buff, he would engage the students in conversations regarding significant historical events. This time was different however; he spent the entire period demonstrating the use of situational irony in The Twilight Zone.
Following that day, I was so impressed with the lesson format, student interest and outcomes, that I bought over 130 episodes through Amazon.com: box sets containing titles from the 1960’s through the 2000’s. This article is about the episode, “Time Enough at Last” that concludes with an exciting twist in the end. It is also an excellent platform for demonstrating how authors use the development of character traits in a story’s foundation.
For the “Do Now,” using the textbook glossary, I have students spend the first few minutes of class writing the definition for situational irony. Afterwards, we have a brief open discussion where they volunteer examples of unexpected endings they have seen in various movies. The next thing they do is write a short prediction regarding the expected plot in “Time Enough at Last.” Again, discussion ensues and students volunteer their predictions.
Prior to beginning the episode which is 25 minutes long, I instruct students in the importance of character traits and to be attentive to appearances and personalities. At this point, I begin the video.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, “Time Enough at Last” is about a banker who loves to read. He is always in trouble at work and at home for sneaking away and reading whatever he can get his hands on. Very important to note, he has extremely bad eyesight and wears very think bottleneck glasses.
One day during his lunch break, the character sneaks downstairs into the bank vault in order to read the paper. Suddenly, an atomic bomb explodes killing everyone around including his wife. Left alone in this world, he wanders around desperately seeking anyone to keep him company. Finding a revolver in the remnants of a sporting goods store, he appears on the verge of suicide when he glances over to find the county library with millions of books strewn throughout; finally something to live for.
He stacks up the books in categories by months and years and settles down next to a large clock. At that point, he recites the title in saying, “Finally, there’s time now, time enough at last.” Just then, he reaches down to pick up a book when his glasses fall off and break. He is blind at that point.
Discussion Point 1
Directly following an argument with his wife after she marks then tears the pages out of one of his poetry books, I stop the video and draw a “bubble map” on the whiteboard. Writing the character’s name, Henry in the center bubble, I ask the class for character traits. They generally volunteer: blind, loves to read, meager etc.
Discussion Point 2
As Henry is searching for people, visualizing the results of the explosion, I stop the video again, asking if anyone can identify “Irony” thus far. They usually find this challenging so I prompt them with the following questions:
What did his wife and his boss detest about his behavior? (reading)
What saved his life? (reading)
This gives students a wonderful grasp on how authors and directors use this literary device.
Discussion Point 3
In the end, right before his glasses break, I ask students to write another brief prediction regarding how they think the story might end. After students volunteer their answers and prior to playing the conclusion, I remind them that this is the Twilight Zone.
I play the ending where Henry leans down only to drop his glasses, cracking in pieces everywhere. The students generally sigh with “oohs” and “ahs,” distraught over the turn of events.
After this introduction into the series, I will play additional episodes throughout the year, having them search for ironic events. I have found students to request these videos over all others. They are very much engaged and develop a firm grasp of irony.
I hope you enjoy experimenting with this lesson and pass it on to whomever shows interest. I believe that teaching is all about sharing our successes and failures within the classroom. Why reinvent the wheel? Meanwhile, I strongly encourage visiting Amazon, as I find it to be an invaluable resource for all of my audio and video needs at exceptional pricing.