Lesson Plan for “A Man Who Had No Eyes”

 

Materials: Short story, "A Man Who Had No Eyes," by

McKinley Kantor (photocopied)

 

 

 

Introduction: This two-page short story illustrates the author's use of a number of literary elements, including symbolism, techniques of characterization, irony, dialogue, description, and point-of-view, and wraps them all in an ending that takes its readers by surprise.

The teacher can shape her lesson to emphasize any of these elements, or use the story as a reference point in discussions of other works of literature. For example, if she teaches a lesson on Poe, or “The Monkey’s Paw,” or “The Gift of the Magi” later in the year, she can remind the students of Kantor’s use of the same literary elements in his story. This lesson plan focuses on theme, but necessarily touches on these other elements as well.

 

Instructional Objectives:

Academic:   

1.     Students will learn to read closely (close Reading) for clues to character and plot.

2.     Students will learn to interpret character based on specific evidence form the text.

3.     Students will learn that character creates plot.

4.     Students will learn to extract a theme from the elements of character and plot.

 

Performance: Students Will Be Able To

 

Find evidence in a text to support their Opinions about character and plot.

 

Behavioral: Students will develop the feeling that focusing on abilities rather than disabilities leads to success.

 

Motivation:

Can you imagine what it must be like to be blind? If you were blind, what would you miss seeing most? Would you be able to work? What kinds of jobs would be impossible for you to do? Could you be a doctor? A teacher? A sanitation man? A computer programmer? An auto mechanic? Could you be a musician? (Are there blind singers and blind piano players and guitarists?) Could you play football or baseball? Could you play golf, or chess? Could you be a guidance counselor or a psychologist? A stock broker? How would you live if you couldn’t find work to do?

 

Aim: Why was Parsons successful in life, while the blind beggar was not?

 

 

 

 

Procedure:

Hand out copies of the story to the class. Read the story with the class. Stop frequently to assess student understanding through your questions.

 

 

 

1. paragraph2: Describe the beggar. What is he wearing?

2. Paragraphs3 - 4: Describe Parsons.

 

 

Based on these descriptions, which man has been more successful in life? What kind of personality (character) Do you think Mr. Parsons has? What kind of personality do you think the beggar has?

 

      1.   Paragraph 5 – 8: Why does the beggar speak to Mr. Parsons? (What is he selling?) Do you think the cigarette lighter is worth $1.00?

 

2.     Paragraph 10:  What is the beggar really asking money for? (What is he really "selling"?) What does he mean when he says, "And, mister, you wouldn't mind helping a poor guy out?"

 

5.     Paragraph 13 – 14: What was Westbury?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.     Paragraph 17: Based on the beggar’s description, what happened at Westbury?

7.     Paragraph 16 – 20: Why does the beggar tell Mr. Parsons about the Westbury explosion? What does “He swallowed – a practiced sob-” tell us about the beggar’s motives? What do the words “Tough luck, fellow. Awfully tough. Now, I want to –” mean?

 

8.     Paragraph 21 – 26: How does Mr. Parsons know what happened in C shop? Who is Markwardt? How does Parson know the beggar’s name?

 

9.     Paragraph 27: Markwardt knows Parsons’ name. How does he know? Which man is telling the truth about what happened in C shop? How do you know?

 

10. Paragraph 28: Why does Markwardt scream at Parsons on the street?

 

11. Paragraph 31: What’s the surprise ending?

 

 

 

Medical Summary: Although the ending is a surprise, there are clues to it throughout the story. Look back at the story (examine the text) from the beginning. What are some clues that Mr. Parsons is blind? (noted the clack-clack approach of the sightless man; walking stick; struggling beneath handicaps: two half-dollars from his vest –are there others?)

 

 

Procedure: Look at the last words Parsons speaks. What is Parsons’ attitude toward Markwardt? I. e. does he have any sympathy for him, and for what he has become? Why not? What is Parsons’ attitude toward blindness as a handicap? (“don’t make such a fuss about it?)

 

Summary:

Fourteen years ago Parsons and Markwardt were in the same position in life: both were skilled laborers in a chemical factory, and both were blinded in the explosions.

How are they different now?

Why has Parsons been so much more successful since the explosion than Markwardt has?

 

 

How has each man’s character determined (or created) the path he took in life (i.e. the plot of his life’s story)?

 

What do you think McKinley Kantor’s theme is in this story (his message for you)?

 

 

 

Interdisciplinary Connections:

 

Social Studies: While this lesson does not address any of the major issues in the social studies curriculums directly, it can be used as a touchstone for discussions of labor conditions, the American work ethic, the responsibility of the rich to the poor, and other socio-economic issues in our country’s history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York State Standards Addressed:

ELA 2: Language for literary response and expression

 

Key Idea 1: Listening and reading for literary response involves comprehending, interpreting, and critiquing imaginative texts in every medium, drawing on personal experiences and knowledge to understand the text, and recognizing the social, historical and cultural features of the text.

 

Key Idea 2: Speaking and writing for critical analysis and evaluation requires presenting opinions and judgments on experiences, ideas, information, and issues clearly, logically, and persuasively with reference to specific criteria on which the opinion or judgment is based.

 

The interpretations of the events of “A Man Who Had No Eyes” reinforces all of the skills in these standards; indeed, the instructional objectives place these skills among the goals of the lesson. Class discussion generated by the teacher’s Socratic questions asks students to respond to literature through speaking, and the teacher can develop an number of writing exercises in many genres: Each of the summary questions can evolve into an expository paragraph or composition, while the circumstances of the story – dealing with the disability, a work-place catastrophe, successes and failures, and so forth – can generate imaginative essays and short stores of all kinds.

 

Literacy Skills Demonstrated:

 

The literacy skills this lesson addresses are enumerated in the section on New York State Standards. They are addressed in the actual reading of the story and, later, through the interpretational questions the teacher asks.

 

Numeracy Skills Addressed:

 

Numeracy skills are not directly addressed in this lesson.

 

 

Supplementary Discovery Activities:

“A Man Who Had No Eyes.” Like all good literary texts, provides students with an ore-bed that can be mined for meaning. Searching for clues that Parsons is blind through a close reading of the text is a discovery activity in itself: exploring the characterization techniques McKinley Kantor uses is another. All of these activities are enhanced through the teacher’s heuristic questioning. As a supplement to this lesson and a reinforcement of the skills it teaches, the teacher should assign other short stories that require the same skills for interpretation.

 

Regents Practice Question:

The ELS standards this lesson addresses are required for questions III and IV of the New York State Regents. Therefore any assignment that asks students to relate the themes of  A Man Who Had No Eyes” to the themes of another literacy work is an excellent practice exercise for the ELA.

 

 

The date, materials, and class to which the lesson was taught locate the lesson in the year’s curriculum. 

 

 

The purpose of an introduction like this one is to give the teacher a clear idea of what it is she wants to accomplish using the materials of her lesson.

Like a thesis statement, it keeps the lesson focused and, consequently, effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the instructional objectives grow out of the materials of the lesson, in this case, the short story.

Thus the materials shape the lesson and the lesson plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many ways to motivate a story about blindness, or about any other ability or disability. In focusing on career possibilities for the blind, this motivation foreshadows one of the key themes of the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try to elicit this aim after you place the comparison between the beggar and Parsons on the board at paragraphs 2 - 4.

 

 

Either the teacher will read aloud while the students follow, or the teacher can choose students to read different sections of the story.

 

Juxtapose these descriptions on the board now.

 

 

 

These questions address academic objectives 1 and 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the first unexpected shift in the story, and some students may need help with it. It’s a point in your lesson at which you should anticipate student difficulty. Students may have trouble visualizing the chemical factory explosion, understanding why the beggar is talking about the event, understanding that the event took place 14 years ago. Make sure everyone is on track, or the end of the story will be ineffective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the second point at which students may have difficulty.

 

 

This question addresses academic objective 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add blind to your board description of Parsons now.

 

 

This summary addresses academic objective 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a restatement of the aim. Originally, students might have felt the answer is, because the beggar is blind and Parsons is not. But after considering Parsons’ blindness, we understand that the answer to this question is more complex.

 

This question addresses academic objective 3.

 

This question addresses academic objective 4 and the behavioral objective.

 

 

 

 

Works of literature, no matter how elementary, often reflect the culture form which they grow. “A man Who Had No Eyes: cannot anchor a social studies lesson as, for example, The Red Badge of Courage can, but, used imaginatively, the short story can be a reference point for a number of issues in the social sciences. These kinds of connections should be a part of every lesson; certainly they reinforce and even enhance student understanding of specified materials as well as broaden student perspective – one of the primary goals of Discovery learning. Beyond these effects on the student, the search for connections broadens the teacher’s perspective as well, and improves her teaching from the point of view of the large scale of the whole year.

 

 

The state standard should always be a touchstone for the teacher, helping her to keep the lesson focused on goals whose achievement leads to learning and a cumulative understanding. The standards should be consulted at every point of the lesson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every lesson addresses the most basic skills of literacy: this section of the plan points out where, specifically, the skills are addressed. It serves, again, as a “pointer” for the teacher, allowing her to assess the strengths and weaknesses of her lesson in this area.

 

 

 

 

Once a lesson has given students new skills or perceptions, the students should be asked to apply those skills and perceptions to new materials. In this lesson plan the new materials would be short stories that are in some ways similar to “A Man Who Had No Eyes.”




 

 

Interdisciplinary Connections:

Social Studies:       While this lesson does not address any of the major issues in

the social studies curriculums directly, it can be used as a touchstone for discussions of labor conditions, the American work ethic, the responsibility of the rich to the poor, and other socio-economic issues in our country's history.

 

New York State Standards Addressed:

 

ELA 2: Language for literary response and expression

 

Key Idea 1: Listening and reading for literary response involves comprehending, interpreting, and critiquing imaginative texts in every medium, drawing on personal experiences and knowledge to understand the text, and recognizing the social, historical and cultural features of the text.

Key Idea 2: Speaking and writing for literary response involves presenting interpretations, analyses, and reactions to the content and language of a text. Speaking and writing for literary expression involves producing imaginative texts that use language and text structures that are inventive and often multilayered.

 

ELA 3: Language for critical analysis and evaluation

 

Key Idea 1: Listening and reading to analyze and evaluate experiences, ideas, information, and issues requires using evaluative criteria from a variety of perspectives and recognizing the difference in evaluations based on different sets of criteria.

 

Key Idea 2: Speaking and writing for critical analysis and evaluation requires presenting opinions and judgments on experiences, ideas, information, and issues clearly, logically, and persuasively with reference to specific criteria on which the opinion or judgment is based.

 

The interpretation of the events of "A Man Who Had No Eyes" reinforces all of the skills in these standards; indeed, the instructional objectives place these skills among the goals of the lesson. Class discussion generated by the teacher's Socratic questions asks students to respond to literature through speaking, and the teacher can develop a number of writing exercises in many genres: Each of the summary questions can evolve into an expository paragraph or composition, while the circumstances of the story - dealing with a disability, a work-place catastrophe, successes and failures, and so forth - can generate imaginative essays and short stories of all kinds.

 

Literacy Skills Demonstrated:

The literacy skills this lesson addresses are enumerated in the section of New York State Standards.

 

Numeracy Skills Addressed:

Numeracy skills are not directly addressed in this lesson.

 

 

Supplementary Discovery Activities:

"A Man Who Had No Eyes," like all good literary texts, provides students with an ore-bed that can be mined for meaning. Searching for clues that Parsons is blind through a close reading of the text is a discovery activity in itself; exploring the characterization techniques McKinley Kantor uses is another. All or these activitii~5 are enhanced through the teacher's heuris7ic questioning. As Q supplement to this lesson and a reinforcement of the skills it teaches, the teacher should assign other short stories that require the same skills for interpretation.

Regents Practice Questions:

The ELA standards this lesson addresses are required for questions III and IV of the New York State Regents. Therefore any assignment that asks students 10 relate the themes of "A Man Who Had No Eyes" to the themes of another literary work is an excellent practice exercise for the ELA.


 

A Man Who Had No Eye

 

By McKinley Kalltor

 

A beggar was coming down the avenue just as Mr. Parsons emerged from his hotel.

 

He was a blind beggar, carrying a battered cane and thumping his way before him, He was a shaggy, thick-necked fellow: his coat was greasy about the labels and pockets. He wore a black pouch slung over his shoulder. Apparently he had something to sell,

 

The air was rich with Spring, Sun was warm and yellowed on the pavement. Mr. Parsons standing there in front of his hotel and noting the clack-clack approach of the sightless man felt a sudden and foolish sort of pity tor all blind creatures,

And, thought Mr. Parsons, he was very glad to be alive. A few years ago he had been little more than a skilled laborer: now he was successful, respected, admired. And, he had done it alone, unaided, struggling beneath handicaps…. And he was still young. The blue air of spring, fresh from its memories of windy pools and lush shrubbery, could thrill him eagerness,

He took a step forward just as the tap-tapping blind man passed him by quickly the shabby fellow turned.

“Listen, mister, just a minute of your time."

Mr. Parsons said, "It's late, I have an appointment Do you want me to give you something?"

"I ain't no beggar, mister. You bet I ain't. I got a handy little article here" -- he fumbled until he could press a small object into Mr. Parsons' hand -- "that I sell. One buck, Best cigarette lighter made,"

Mr. Parsons stood there, somewhat annoyed and embarrassed, He was a handsome figure, with his immaculate gray suit and gray hat and walking stick. Of Course the man with the cigarette lighters could not see him… "But I don't smoke," he said "Listen, I bet you know plenty people who smoke, Nice little present," said the man, "And, mister. you wouldn't mind help a poor guy out?" He clung to Mr. Parsons' sleeve.

Mr. Parson's sighed and felt in his vest pocket. He brought out two half dollars and pressed them into the man's hand, "Certainly. I'll help you out. As you say, I can give it to someone. Maybe the elevator boy would --" He hesitated, not wishing to be rude and nasty, even with a blind peddler, "Have you lost your sight entirely?”

The shabby man pocketed the two half dollars, "Fourteen years, mister," Then he added with an insane sort of pride: "Westbury, sir. I was one of them."

"Westbury," repeated Mr. Parsons, "Ah, yes, the chemical explosion…. The papers haven't mentioned it for years. But at the time it was supposed to be one of the greatest disasters in ---”

''They've all forgot about it' the fellow shifted his feet wearily. " I tell you, mister, a man who was in it don't forget about it last thing I ever saw was C shop going up in one grand blaze, and that awful gas pouring in at all the busted windows."

Mr. Parsons coughed. But the bind peddler was caught up in his own dramatic story. Also, he was thinking that there might be more half dollars in Mr. Parsons' pocket.

 

"Just think about it, mister. There was a hundred and eight people killed, about two hundred injured, and over fifty of them lost their eyes. Blind as bats --" He groped forward until his dirty hand rested against Me Parsons coat. "I tell you, sir, there wasn't nothing worse than that in the war, If I had lost my eyes in the war, okay. I would have been well taken care of. But I was just a workman, working for what was in it. And I got it. You're so right 1 got it, while the rich men were getting richer. They was insured, don't worry about that. They --"

"Insured," repeated his listener. "Yes. That's what I sell--"

"You want to know how I lost my eyes?" cried the man. "Well, here it is!" His words fell with the bitter and Well-rehearsed drama of a story often told, and told for money. "I was there in C shop, last of all the folks rushing out. Out in the air there was a chance, even with the buildings exploding right and left. A lot of guys made it safe out the door and got away. And just when I was about there, crawling along between those big vats, a guy behind me grabs my leg. He says, 'let me past, you --!" Maybe he was nuts. I dunno. I try to forgive him in my heart, mister. But he was bigger than me. He hauls me back and climbs right over me! Tramples me into the dirt! And he gets out, and I lie there with all that poison gas pouring down on all sides of me, and flame and stuff. ..” He swallowed _ - a practiced sob -- and stood waiting He could imagine the next words:

Tough luck. fellow. Awfully tough. Now, I want to -- "That's the story, mister." The spring wind shrilled past them, damp and quivering.

"Not quite," said Mr. Parsons.

The blind peddler shivered crazily. "Not quite? What you mean, you -- ?"

"The story is true," Mr. Parsons said, "except that it was the other way around."  “Other way around?' He croaked angrily. "Say, mister--- "

"I was in C shop," said Mr. Parsons. "It was the other way around. You were the fellow who hauled back on me and climbed over me. You were bigger than I was, Markwardt. "

          The blind man stood for a long time, swallowing hoarsely. He gulped: "Parsons. By heaven!  By heaven! I though you --" And then he screamed fiendishly: "Yes. Maybe so. Maybe so. But I'm blind! I'm blind, and you've been standing here letting me spout to you, and laughing at me every minute! I'm blind!"

People in the street turned to stare at hint.

"You got away, but I'm blind! Do you hear? I'm---"

"Well" said Mr. Parsons, "don't make such a fuss about it, Markwardt. ... So am I"