This assignment asks you to see, read, understand and connect a Text to Video correlation (mutual relationships or connections between two or more things – definition by google) as you work with Fahrenheit 451 and The Twilight Zone TV episode The Obsolete Man (Season 2: Episode 29). This is all about Universal Themes.

The book, Fahrenheit 451, covers many Big Ideas translated into Universal Themes.

BIG IDEAS are not complete sentences. They tend to be words and phrases that can act as topic headings.

Some BIG IDEAS are

  • Good vs. Evil
  • Hope for the Future
  • The Will to Survive
  • Ignorance vs. Knowledge
  • Fairness


  • complete sentences.
  • specific truths about the entire planet and the entire planet’s population.
  • true across all cultures, across all time, and across vast distances in space.
  • verifiable (able to be proven to be true) statements
  • will always be verifiable (able to be proven to be true).

Some examples of how BIG IDEAS can be translated into Universal themes, check out these samples:

  • good vs evilThis BIG IDEA can be translated into the following Universal Themes
    • Good will always triumph over evil.
    • There can be no good in the world without evil in the world.
  • hope for the future – This BIG IDEA can be translated into the following Universal Theme
    • Children are our hope for the future.
    • New Ideas are our hope for the future.
  • the will to surviveThis BIG IDEA can be translated into the following Universal Theme.
    • As long as there is a will to live, there is hope for the future (notice how a couple of themes can come together?)
  • ignorance vs knowledge –This BIG IDEA can be translated into the following Universal Theme
    • Ignorance of our past will force us to repeat it.
    • Ignorance is bliss.
    • Knowledge can save us a lot of trouble.
  • fairness
    • One person’s idea of fairness can be very different from another person’s idea of it.

We start by reviewing a multitude of Universal Themes (Universal Theme, UNIVERSAL THEMES & GENERALIZATIONS – Duke TIP, Universal Themes documents) that authors want readers to learn about and come to understand. We narrow a list of over 100 Universal Themes to just the ones we feel are treated in Fahrenheit 451. Then, in your groups, you pick 3 or 4 you would like to think more deeply about.

From those few, you later decide on one for the Obsolete Man Assignment – only one for the assignment.

Then we watch and discuss a Twilight Zone Episode called The Obsolete Man. Periodically during the viewing, we pause the video to ensure we discern correlations (mutual relationships or connections between two or more things – definition by google)  in plot techniques, symbolism, various uses of figurative language and poetic devices in order to really come to understand how an artist communicates a message on Universal Theme. Rod Serling would never admit it, but The Obsolete Man is clearly based on the ideas developed by Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451. Here’s more on some things we do with this assignment.

Stage 1

Activate Essential Prior Knowledge

A brief review of basic plot elements:

  1. Exposition – main characters [protagonist, antagonist], general setting, core conflict[s] – the rope to be knotted or already knotted up
  2. Rising Action – complications: uncover the true depth of the conflict and character; revealing the internal conflict(s) where they might not have been evident in the exposition; concerned with character & conflict development – the knot is tightened
  3. Climax – realization and/or major change within the main character relative to the conflict(s)  – the knot at its tightest
  4. Falling Action – This takes care of all that comes from the climax including all implications that can be inferred. Some describe this as “tying up any loose ends” which is completely contrary to my notion. This is where the knot is totally untied and allowed to touch on everything that was influenced in any way by the conflict throughout the story – the tension is released. The knot, which has been the center of the conflict and that which pulled at everything in the storyline is ultimately loosened and untied. The tension and confusion is released for the main conflict and all related conflicts. Everything that had been touched by the main character and this main deep seated conflict is touched as the loose ends of the untied knot fall away from the center and touch those effected things – characters, cultures, places.
  5. Resolution – Where could or does the story lead from here? Does it even go anywhere? Is it (given to you) explicitly  stated? Is it (hinted at, but not actually given) implied  for you? Is it totally up in the air and completely up to you? Can you explain which it is with proper support from the text?

Also, you’ll want to review the stages in the CREATIVE process:

  1. Brainstorming: Samples, Samples
  2. Planning – This is really about text structures; yes, methods of organization.
  3. Drafting
  4. Proofing/Editing
  5. Redrafting (some call this Final Drafting)

Now let’s work those together in terms of grades. There will be three grades that will be easily gathered along the way:

  1. Brainstorming/Planning/Draft or Create
  2. Peer Proof/Edit/Feedback
  3. Final Draft or Create

Stage 2

Making A Connection

While watching The Obsolete Man (1961),

  • Answer the The Obsolete Man Guided Viewing Questions.
  • TAKE NOTES about allusions.
  • Take notes about literary techniques, and poetic devices.
  • create a PLOT diagram to reflect the details from the episode.  .



Think about the book Fahrenheit 451 as compared to The Obsolete Man.

Your task: is to CREATE   1   of these. . .

  1. (UNIVERSAL THEMES, Formal Writing, Expository Writing, Compare & Contrast, Inferencing) CREATE (A) an essay or (B) a work of art (drawing, painting, sculpture, musical piece) to explain, illustrate or describe any connections and allusions you could identify between the Twilight Zone episode The Obsolete Man and any ideas, events, characters from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Refer to rubrics. How do these carry a message on a Universal Theme?
  2. (UNIVERSAL THEMES, Metaphor, Simile, CHARACTERIZATION, Tone, Point of View, Inferencing) AS A MAJOR CHARACTER from Fahrenheit 451 or The Obsolete Man CREATE (A) a page long  journal entry or (B) a work of art (drawing, painting, sculpture, musical piece) that would appear in a journal with a brief journal entry. The journal entry MUST be written as an extended metaphor. Refer to rubrics. How do these carry a message on a Universal Theme?
  3. (UNIVERSAL THEMES, CHARACTERIZATION, Poetic Forms, Inferencing/Application/ Synthesis/Inferencing) CREATE (A) a poem (villanelle, elegy, narrative, sonnet, concrete, or free verse) or (B) a work of art (drawing, painting, sculpture, musical piece) inspired by the issues brought out by the episode. Include a well developed paragraph explaining what literary/poetic techniques and issues (themes) are represented in the piece. Refer to rubrics. How do these carry a message on a Universal Theme?

When all is said (or written or painted or drawn) and done, you must turn in proof of all stages of the creative process. This means that you will have proof of

  1. Original – Brainstorming, Planning
  2. Original Draft  ((#1 & #2 ARE DUE 3 DAYS AFTER VIEWING))
  3. Peer 1 Proofed/Edited and RUBRIC graded (see my Essential Documents page for rubric choices)
  4. Original REdrafted – POST to Student Websites.
  5. EXTRA CREDIT – Peer 2 Proofed/Edited and RUBRIC graded (see my Essential Documents page for rubric choices)

Rough Paper Drafts will be placed in your student file and recorded on the Writing Process Grades Cover Sheet.

ALL of this is due the day after we finish the book.

Here are some considerations and allusions I have uncovered. This could help you with any of the above assignments.

POSSIBLE symbolic value in characters’ names in Fahrenheit 451:

  • Guy Montag – “Guy is a general way to name a male. HE is just a guy. Nothing special about him. The average;
  • Clarrise McClellan – sounds like clear. She cleared Montag’s vision so he could begin to see clearly the world in which he lives;
  • Mildred Montag – sounds like dread in her name. She is just a [dreadful, horrifying example of how people actually dread their existence in the world of the novel;
  • Captain Beatty – hear/see the word BEAT in his name? He is an authority figure who is an example of how those in opposition simply need to be wiped out. So the connotation brought to mind is beat the opposition down.
  • Faber (unknown symbolic value told to us in a journal entry written by Bradbury) – gotta check my copy of the book for this one.

POSSIBLE symbolic value in characters’ names in The Obsolete Man:

BIG IDEAS into Universal Themes

  • Individual Power vs State Power
    • The idea that the individual has power over the state is dealt with throughout.  In fact the final act of Romney Wordsworth – broadcasting the fact that he would see his end as himself,  a reader, illustrates the power of the individual over the state. Read one perspective on Individual Freedom and State Supremacy as it is dealt with here, in this country. There are many perspectives on this topic. Don’t stop with the one I offer here.
  • Diminishing Value of Libraries
    • The idea that a Library would become useless and subsequently a librarian was an insane notion for most people to consider in the 1950s up through the 1980s I’d venture to guess. You may not remember this, but Charlotte-Mecklenberg Public Libraries decided to close a lot of branches some years back. This is a direction we are heading in. Check out this bit though, shocking as it may seem Libraries Are Obsolete: An Oxford-Style Debate | Harvard Library .

You might like to consider one person’s view of the themes generally dealt with in Twilight Zones episodes.

ALLUSIONS to HISTORY and other topics on Totalitarian RULE. Please read further to more thoroughly build your background in this area.

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