Are you getting bored teaching the same works but don’t have the resources to trade out novels? Or perhaps you are just looking to create a different unit from scratch? Look no further. The following list is compiled from a Twitter chat hosted by Talks with Teachers to brainstorm resources for teaching texts dealing with the theme of escape – perfect for a Halloween twist. These resources include major works, short stories, poems, songs, Ted Talks, films, documentaries, writing ideas, question ideas, and more. Pick and choose what you need to create your own unit.
Q1. What major works — novels and plays — feature the desire to escape?
The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
All My Sons
The Bell Jar
Brave New World
Breath Eyes Memory
Catcher in the Rye
Crime and Punishment
The Dew Breaker
A Doll’s House
East of Eden
The Glass Castle
The Glass Menagerie
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Gatsby
The Handmaid’s Tale
Heart of Darkness
The Horse Dealer’s Daughter
The House on Mango Street
Into the Wild
Kafka on the Shore
The Kite Runner
Life of Pi
A Light in August
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Lord of the Flies
A Midsummer NIght’s Dream
Of Mice and Men
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Oryx and Crake,
The Poisonwood Bible
Pride and Prejudice
A Raisin in the Sun
Romeo and Juliet
Salvage the Bones
Sing, Unburied, Sing
A Streetcar Named Desire
Song of Solomon
The Sun Also Rises
The Things They Carried
Their Eyes Were Watching God
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Underground Railroad
Q2. What shorter works — short stories or poems — display the theme of desire to escape?
All Summer in a Day
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Birthday Party
A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethun
The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MInd
The Ethics of Living Jim Crow
A Good Man is Hard to Find
Hills LIke Elephants
The Hollow Men,
How I Met My Husband
I Never Heard the Word “Escape”
The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Lake Isle of Innisfree
Longest Hour in History
Looking for the Gulf Motel
The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock
The Machine Stops
The Man Who Lived Underground
Maybe Dats Your Pwoblem Too
The Most Dangerous Game
Mother Fletcher’s Gift
My Son the Man
Perfect Day for Bananafish
Portrait of an Alcoholic
A Rose For Emily
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Song of Myself
The Sound of Thunder
The Story of an Hour
To the Ladies
There is No Frigate Like a Book
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied (poem)
Tired with all these, for a restful death I cry (sonnet)
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings
When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
Where are you going, Where have you been
The Yellow Wallpaper
Q2: Clips from movies, Ted-ed videos, documentaries, etc.? What visual media strongly display the desire to escape?
Alice in Wonderland
Allentown (Billy Joel)
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder (Twilight Zone)
The Book Thief
Born to Run (Springsteen)
The Danger of a Single Story (TED Talk)
Do the Right Thing
Escape from New York
Field of Dreams
Fire Away (Chris Stapleton)
Good Will Hunting
The Great Escape
The Green Mile
Harold and Maude
I am Legend
I Want to Break Free (Queen)
If I Ever Get Out of Here
Independence Day (Martina McBride)
Into the Wild
Karma Police (Radiohead)
A League of Their Own
Living for the City (Stevie Wonder)
The Lonely (Twilight Zone)
Lose Yourself (Eminem)
Man in the High Castle
Miami 2017 (Billy Joel)
Mississippi, Goddam (Nina Simone)
A Moment of Clarity (Jay Z)
The Name of the Rose
O, Brother Where Art Thou
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Chief)
The Phantom of the Opera
The Red Balloon (short film)
The Shawshank Redemption
Stranger than Fiction
Stroke of Insight (TED Talk)
The Truman Show
Under Pressure (David Bowie)
A Walk in the Clouds
The Way Way Back
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Why a Good Book is a Secret Door (TED Talk)
The Wizard of Oz
Q4: Which non-fiction articles, essays, and blog posts touch upon the theme of the desire to escape?
American Dreamless (essays)
Between the World and Me
Beyond the Beautiful Forevers
The Chase (Dillard)
The Glass Castle
Greening the Ghetto (TED Talk)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
In Cold Blood
In Order to Live
The Meanings of a Word
One Thousand Days in a Balloon
Stranger in the Village (Baldwin)
Superman and Me (Alexi)
Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Question
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
Q5. What are some of the essential questions we can ask to help students understand the complexities of the desire to escape?
What does it mean to be human?
What is escape? Discussing all the aspects of the idea of escape will make great conversation
What forces can overpower the desire to escape?
What might people want to literally escape from?
What are some other things people might want to figuratively escape?
What are some driving factors that motivate people to escape from their situations?
Brainstorm words you associate with the word “escape”
What happens to a person when escape is forced upon them?
What are the internal and external forces that create a desire to escape?
Why do humans desire to escape from themselves?
What coping strategies do we use for temporary escape?
Questions that center around the ability of the human connection, and how language can be a form of escape.
How do people deal with adversity, stereotypes, and close-minded communities?
When might escaping from a situation backfire?
Do we escape to, or escape from?
What if what we need to escape from is inside us?
Physical? Psychological? Spiritual? Life? Death?
Does escape help or hinder? Does it solve?
What are obstacles to escape?
How do today’s stereotypes have an impact and how do we escape these?
How does a person escape one’s past?
Why do we escape?
What are things we cannot escape, but wish we could?
Does successful escape achieve the desired result?
Are there things that cannot be escaped?
s escape always the best choice?
Is there a nobler choice?
What are some ways that people may become literally or metaphorically trapped?
What makes escaping these situations difficult?
Can someone escape the past?
Is the desire to escape still purposeful even if it is a known futile attempt?
Is the desire enough?
What happens after “escape”?
What conditions make us want to escape?
You can desire escape from things that are good or not want to escape from bad–why?
What groups of people have tried to escape oppression? What/who are they escaping? Why?
Can [he/she/man] return after escaping? If so, when & under what conditions?
What might warrant an escape?
What makes a person feel hopeless?
How does the old adage “Wherever you go, there you are,” factor into the concept of escape?
When is the desire to escape negative? And when might it be positive?
Does human behavior allow for one to escape while staying in the present?
Springsteen: “This is a town full of losers. I’m pulling out of here to win.” (Thunder Rd). What does it mean to “win”?
Categorize reasons why we want/need to escape. Include obstacles/character traits/rewards that help/hinder those escapes.
Q6: What writing assignments and prompts would help students appreciate the thematic significance of the desire to escape?
Personal narrative about trying to escape a person, situation, obstacle, etc.
Have them write about their own experiences of escape (whether serious or simple) and how it impacted their lives.
A personal reflection on a time the student would like to escape. Or things about their hometown that they don’t like.
Compare/contrast the effectiveness of escape within two works and the effects (psychological/emotional/relationships)
Narrative in which Holden and Chief (from Cuckoo’s Nest) debate if it is more difficult to escape the combine or the asylum.
Interview someone who has tried to escape something (domestic abuse, addiction, obsession, etc) and write article or essay.
Have Ss write their way out of an argument from a viewpoint that they are not comfortable with
Provide Ss with an escape scene and have them analyze how the scene supports or challenges 3-4 prompts that focus on escape
Quick Write: Have you ever wanted to escape? What from? Why? Did you? If so, how? If not, why?
While I have not personally tried literary escape boxes in my class, I have friends who rave about them.
The Rise of Educational Escape Rooms – The Atlantic
What resrouces would you add to this list?