Brown’s works

He was an American science fiction and mystery writer, best known for his use of humor and for his mastery of the “short short” form-stories of 1 to 3 pages, often with ingenious plot devices and surprise endings. One of his stories, “Arena”, is officially credited for an adaptation as an episode of the American television series Star Trek.

The plot

The story Sentry is about points of view. Most of the time it is not reality itself that shapes our feelings, but rather it is the way we see reality. It is based on rivals from different planets who are fighting for power over other planets.

1. Look at the picture, what do you predict the story will be about. What is an “alien”? What do you think an alien looks like? Read the story and check your ideas.


He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold and he was fifty thousand lightyears from home.

A strange blue sun gave light, and gravity, twice what he was used to, made every movement difficult.

But in tens of thousands of years this part of war hadn’t changed. The flyboys1 were fine with their sleek2 spaceships and their fancy weapons. When the chips are down3, though, it was still the foot soldier, the infantry4 that had to take the ground and hold it, foot by bloody foot5. Like this damned planet of a star he’s never heard of until they’d landed him there. And now it was sacred ground6 because the aliens were there too. The aliens, the only other intelligent race in the Galaxy…cruel, hideous and repulsive7 monsters.

Contact had been made with them near the centre of the Galaxy, after the slow, difficult colonization8 of a dozen thousand planets; and it had been war at sight9; they’d shot without even trying to negotiate, or to make peace.

Now, planet by bitter planet, it was being fought out10.

He was wet and muddy and hungry and cold, and the day was raw11 with a high wind that hurt his eyes. But the aliens were trying to infiltrate12 and every sentry post was vital. He stayed alert, gun ready. Fifty thousand light-years from home, fighting on a strange world and wondering if he’d ever live to see home again.

And then he saw one of them crawling toward him. He drew a bead13 and fired. The alien made that strange horrible sound they all make, then lay still.

He shuddered14 at the sound and sight of the alien lying there. One ought to be able to get used to them after a while, but he’d never been able to. Such repulsive creatures they were, with only two arms and two legs, ghastly15 white skins and no scales.

1) pilots

2) elegant

3) when the sitiation is difficult

4) foot soldiers

5) to defend territory on foot

6) a meaningful or holy place

7) extremely unpleasant or unacceptable

8) the act of sending people to live in and govern another country

9) immediately, instantly, right then and there

10) they were conquering planet after planet

11) very cold

12) to pass through gaps in the enemy line

13) to aim rifle carefully

14) to shake and shiver

15) horrible

2. Answer the following questions about the story.

1) Who is the main character of the story (narrator)? Who is a sentry?

2) Who or what are the aliens? How do you know?

3) Describe the setting of the story. Provide three specific examples from the story.

• ____________________________________ ____________________________________

• ____________________________________ ____________________________________

• ____________________________________ ____________________________________

4) Tell how the sentry feels about:

a) the planet where he is ______________________________________________________

b) his job there ______________________________________________________

c) his home ______________________________________________________

d) the aliens ______________________________________________________

5) How does the author make us empathize with or feel sympathy for the narrator? Find quotes from the story to support your answer.


6) What is the main type of conflict in the story? Identify and explain the irony.

7) Author Frederic Brown does not overtly state a theme, but he hints. In your opinion, what is the message of the story? What do you think about his point in the story? Choose among the following:

• Things are not always as they seem.

• Everybody is prejudiced.

• There will always be clashes between different cultures.

• Prejudice and misunderstanding are the seeds of hatred.

3. Work in pairs. Make up a dialogue between the sentry and the alien. Think of the issues they could discuss, ask and answer questions which might arise during the dialogue, explain the main motif that guides you in this war for each of the sides.

Матеріал до підручника Англійська мова 11 клас Нерсисян, Піроженко 2019

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