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  1. #1
    Walt Whitman is offline Member
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    Default Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    English teacher

    I’m going to give my middle school students (aged 13) a simplified version of Fredric Brown's short story "The Sentry". I’d like to know if it sounds fine to you.


    COMMUNICATION SKILLS & STRATEGIES – LITERATURE: FREDRIC BROWN (1906-1972), THE SENTRY (1954).

    Thousands of light years from now, on an unknown planet, men and aliens are fighting a never-ending war to control the universe.

    Before-reading

    (1) What is an “alien”? What do you think an alien looks like?
    THE SENTRY (1954)
    He was wet and hungry and cold and he was fifty thousand light years from home. He was on a damned planet he did not know. War never changes. After thousands of years it was still very easy for the pilots, high up in their shining spaceships with all their sophisticated weapons. After thousands of years it was still the ordinary soldier’s task, the infantryman, to fight the enemy and die in battle. The aliens were there too. The aliens, the only other intelligent race in the galaxy, cruel, horrible monsters.
    The first contact with the aliens took place in the centre of the galaxy, and war broke out immediately. They started to shoot; they did not try to negotiate or to make peace. Now the war continued, planet by planet.
    He was wet and hungry and cold; the fierce wind hurt his eyes. But the aliens were there, ready to infiltrate and all the positions were vital. He stayed alert,his gun ready. And then he saw one of them creeping towards him. He aimed his gun and opened fire. The alien made that strange horrible cry they all make, and then a deathly silence. It was dead. The sight of the dead body made him shudder. They were horrible disgusting creatures, with only two arms, two legs, two eyes, and awful white skin and without scales.


    (2) Read the story and answer the questions.

    1) Who is the main character of the story? 2) Where is he? 3) What is the weather like? 4) Who are the soldier’s enemies? What are they like?
    5) How does the soldier feel? Why? 6) What suddenly happens to him? 7) Who are the aliens?

    (3) Say how the sentry feels about
    (a) the planet where he is __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ _________________
    (b) his job there __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ _________________
    (c) his home __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ _________________
    (d) the aliens __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________ _________________

    (4)
    In your opinion, what is the message of the story? Choose among the following.

    (a) Things are not always as they seem.
    (b) Everybody is prejudiced.
    (c) There will always be clashes between different cultures.
    (d) Prejudice and misunderstanding are the seeds of hate.

    How much did you like these activities? (from 4 to 10): 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


    Thank you.
    WW




    Last edited by Walt Whitman; 21-Nov-2013 at 00:21.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    I don't know the original and liked the twist at the end.

    The aliens, the only other intelligent race in the galaxy, cruel, horrible monsters.
    Is there a verb missing or is this deliberate?

  3. #3
    Walt Whitman is offline Member
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    Default Re: Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    It is deliberate.
    The twist at the end is the core of the story. I too liked it very much.
    I hope my students will be able to get the message Fredric Brown wanted to convey.
    By the way, where did you move the thread?
    WW

  4. #4
    linguist_inside is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    Beautiful! A great choice of text for your students!

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    By the way, where did you move the thread?
    Into Teaching English

  6. #6
    Walt Whitman is offline Member
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    Default Re: Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    Thank you Tdol and linguist_inside.
    linguist_inside, feel free to use text and activities with your students if you like.

    WW

  7. #7
    PeterValk is offline Member
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    Default Re: Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    "Thousands of light years from now, on an unknown planet"

    I think light years are a measure of distance and not time.
    Artistic license or plain mistake?

    Then, a bit further on:
    "and he was fifty thousand light years from home"
    And here he gets it right, right?

  8. #8
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterValk View Post
    "Thousands of light years from now, on an unknown planet"

    I think light years are a measure of distance and not time.
    Artistic license or plain mistake?

    Then, a bit further on:
    "and he was fifty thousand light years from home"
    And here he gets it right, right?

    I agree with you that light years are a measure of distance. Dictionaries (and Google) confirm this fact. Technically, "Thousands of light years from here" would have been better. However, given that a light year is specifically a measure referring to the distance light travels in one year, it is easy to see why (and how) so many people use it as a measure of time. I wouldn't go with either artistic license or plain mistake - I would simply say that it's one of those things that has been (mis)used so many times that few people would register it.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  9. #9
    Walt Whitman is offline Member
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    Default Re: Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterValk View Post
    "Thousands of light years from now, on an unknown planet"

    I think light years are a measure of distance and not time.
    Artistic license or plain mistake?

    Then, a bit further on:
    "and he was fifty thousand light years from home"
    And here he gets it right, right?
    Hi Peter.
    Ahem, it isn’t an artistic license (I’m a teacher, not a writer). It’s actually a plain mistake (I must admit that the opening sentence is mine). I’ll fix it straight away.
    Thanks a lot.
    WW

  10. #10
    PeterValk is offline Member
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    Default Re: Fredric Brown, "The Sentry"

    That's okay,mistakes happen. Just don't let it happen again.
    I'll be watching....
    Last edited by PeterValk; 30-Nov-2013 at 18:55.

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