The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street by Rod Sterling

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

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    I remember reading this story as a play in middle school. I was captivated by the ending, and it has stayed with me ever since. Using the story in the classroom can prove to be a great tool for teaching themes, lessons, and morals. This lesson plan is designed to generate creativity and discussion around what happens when human nature gets out of hand.

    By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!

    A Quick Synopsis of Twilight Zone - The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street (Contains Plot Spoilers)

    The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street was originally an episode of the 1960’s television show The Twilight Zone. Later, the episode was made into a graphic novel. The story deals with human nature, and paranoia.

    The story begins on quiet, suburban Maple Street. A shadow passes over, accompanied by a flash of light, a whooshing sound, and followed by a power outage. Immediately, people are in the streets speculating, and extraterrestrial visitors is mentioned. One resident, Peter, volunteers to take a look around. The characters believe that the aliens could be living as a family in the neighborhood who appear human. Hysteria takes hold, and residents start to accuse their neighbors. Everyone is a suspect, and the neighborhood is growing uneasy.

    Panic of monsters steadily builds until, one night, a shadowy figure appears. Charlie, a main character, grabs a shotgun, and shoots the shadow in fear. Unfortunately, it is Peter Van Horn, returning from his scouting mission. He dies instantly. Suddenly, the lights in Charlie's house come on, and he panics as the crowd begins accusing him of being both a murderer and the monster responsible for the power being out. A witch hunt begins, and the neighborhood turns into an angry mob. Terrified residents produce weapons, a riot breaks out, and fear drives residents to shoot each other.

    The ending scene reveals that the object that had flown overhead was indeed an alien spaceship. Alien observers watch the riot on Maple Street knowing they created the mass hysteria through the manipulation of the power. In the end, the residents of Maple Street were the real monsters. The aliens conclude that conquering Earth will be easy; the humans will destroy themselves.

    Essential Questions for The Monsters are Due on Maple Street:

    1. How can fear control you?
    2. What causes modern day mass hysteria?
    3. How do dire situations cause people to act out of character?
    4. Do you believe that psychological warfare is more dangerous than conventional weapons? Why?

    Follow the Maple Street Monsters by Creating a Plot Diagram

    A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a novel. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

    Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a novel with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell have students create a scene that follows the story in the sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.


    Plot Diagram Example The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street:

    • Exposition

      On quiet, suburban Maple Street, somewhere in America, the inhabitants notice a meteor-like object fly overhead. After it passes, all electronics and electricity go dead.

    • Conflict

      A young boy named Tommy tells a story he read about aliens arriving from outer space. Believing his story, the people start to suspect each other of being secret aliens.

    • Rising Action

      One resident, Pete Van Horn, leaves to check the next block over. Meanwhile, Mr. Goodman's car mysteriously starts. Everyone accuses him of being an alien. Steve tries to talk some sense into the mob, but fails. He becomes a suspect as attention is directed to the radio in his basement!

    • Climax

      The mob sees a figure coming towards them. Charlie grabs a gun and accidentally shoots Van Horn, who has returned. Suddenly Charlie's lights go on, and now he is the prime suspect.

    • Falling Action

      Everyone is hysterical. Charlie screams that the real alien is Tommy, the young boy who knew the events before they happened.

    • Resolution

      In the end, aliens watch the town as it destroys itself. A simple trick by the aliens turned the residents against each other; they themselves were the monsters, not the aliens.

    Monsters on Maple St.- Plot Diagram
    Create your own at StoryboardThat.com EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION On quiet, suburban Maple Street, somewhere in America, the inhabitants notice a meteor-like object fly overhead. After it passes, all electronics and electricity go dead. A young boy named Tommy tells a story he read about aliens arriving from outer space. Believing his story, the people start to suspect each other of being secret aliens. Pete Van Horn, leaves to check the next block over. Mr. Goodman's car mysteriously starts. Everyone accuses him of being an alien. Steve tries to talk some sense into the mob, but fails. He becomes a suspect as attention is directed to the radio in his basement! The mob sees a figure coming towards them. Charlie grabs a gun and accidentally shoots Van Horn, who has returned. Suddenly Charlie's lights go on, and now he is the prime suspect. Everyone is hysterical. Charlie screams that the real alien is Tommy, the young boy who knew the events before they happened. In the end, aliens watch the town as it destroys itself. A simple trick by the aliens turned the residents against each other; they themselves were the monsters, not the aliens.

    Example

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    Depicting Key Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

    Valuable aspects of any literary work are its theme(s), symbols, and motif(s). Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach theme(s), symbols, and motif(s).

    In the classroom, students can track the themes this story uses to teach lessons to the audience

    Themes, Motifs, and Imagery to Look for, and Discuss

    • Fear/Paranoia: Fear and suspicion can cause normal, peaceful people (neighbors and friends) to turn on one another. Despite having known each other for some time, idiosyncrasies drive them to re-examine how well they know their neighbors.

    • Mankind as Its Own Worst Enemy: Ever noticed how mankind pulls itself down? This theme is present in this story and throughout history.

    • Prejudice: When people make prejudgments they are often irreversible. Once a thought is put into someone's mind, it is hard to root out. This is why prejudices are so dangerous. In the residents' search for a scapegoat, suspicion and prejudice lead to dire consequences.

    • People as Wild Animals: Throughout the story, the author creates metaphors around the people acting like animals. This symbolizes the loss of control humans have once hysteria and paranoia take control. They become no better than animals, living by instinct rather than rationality.
    Monsters on Maple St. - Theme
    Create your own at Storyboard That The first sign of fear appeared after Tommy mentioned the story of aliens. After that point, the crowd began to look for a scapegoat. The second sign of paranoia appeared when Les' car started. The group, primarily led by Charlie, began to question him as a suspect. A third sign is when the group turns on Steve, then Charlie. Charlie, in turn, blames Tommy. EXAMPLE 1 EXAMPLE 2 EXAMPLE 3 FEAR AND PARANOIA​

    Example

    Character Mapping The Maple Street Mob!

    As students read, a storyboard can serves as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a story, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

    You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is an fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.

    For “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” a character map helps students remember who were called out as scapegoats, and will visually show them how quickly things escalated. It will also provide a reference for discussion about how each person added to the hysteria.


    Example Character Map

    • Name: Steve Brand
    • Description of character’s personality:
    • Leader, calming influence, intelligent, open-minded, tries to control the mob.

    • What causes the mob to focus on him?
    • He always works late in his basement on a radio.

    • Changes in character, physically or mentally?
    • He eventually gets angry, and stops trying to help.

    Monsters on Maple St. - Character Map
    Create your own at StoryboardThat.com Steve Brand Charlie Tommy Don Martin Les Goodman Peter Van Horn Changes in character, physically or mentally?