Lesson Plan - Get It!
Watch this scene from the 2008 Pixar film WALL-E, Human dystopia. As you watch, try to answer this question: who seems to be in control of life on the ship?
The clip from WALL-E features a dystopian society.
A dystopia is a futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through various control systems such as governments, technology, and radical religions.
Dystopias are exaggerated, worst-case scenarios based on trends or problems in current society. Authors create dystopian societies as cautionary tales to convince readers to make changes in their lives and communities.
In the film WALL-E, technology has taken over, and the people aboard the ship have become utterly dependent upon robots to meet their every need. For instance, in the scene from the movie, how would you describe the people? What matters most to them? How could these descriptions be warnings to the people watching the film?
During the early 1950s, the famous science fiction author Ray Bradbury wrote the short story, "The Veldt," to offer a similar warning about the dangers of technology. Download and read "The Veldt" from Mr. Jost's Internet Classroom. Before you read, think about what the title could mean. Have you heard this word before? Do you think it's a real world, or did Bradbury make it up?
While you read, use the following strategies adapted from Jim Burke's "Reading Short Stories" to help your comprehension:
- Identify the main characters. Pay attention to the characters that make the story happen or to whom important things happen. Think about this question for each main character: What does this character want more than anything else — and why?
- Identify the plot or the situation. The plot is what happens: The sniper from one army tries to shoot the sniper from the other army ("The Sniper"). Some writers prefer to put their characters in a situation: a famous hunter is abandoned on an uncharted island where, it turns out, he will now be hunted ("The Most Dangerous Game").
- Pay attention to the setting. Setting refers not only to where the story takes place, but when it happens. It also includes details like tone and mood. What does the story sound like: a sad violin playing all by itself or a whole band charging down the road? Does the story have a lonely feeling or a scary feeling, as if any minute something will happen?
- Consider the story's point of view. Think about why the author chose to tell the story through this person's point of view instead of a different character; why in the past instead of the present; why an omniscient narrator (one who knows everything) versus one of the main characters.
- Pay attention to the author's use of time. Some short story writers will make ten years pass by simply beginning the next paragraph, "Ten years later...." Look for any words that signal time passed. Sometimes writers will also use extra space between paragraphs to signal the passing of time.
- Find the crucial moment. Every short story has some conflict, some tension or element of suspense in it. Eventually, something has to give. This is the moment when the character or the story suddenly changes direction. A character, for example, feels or acts differently than before.
To make your experience more enjoyable, watch this classic Ray Bradbury Theater production from 1989, The Ray Bradbury Theater - S04E11 - The Veldt (Aired 11-10-89) :