lesson six button button by richard matheson n.
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Presentation Transcript
He was born February 20th, 1926 in New Jersey, started writing at the age of eight), educated in journalism in New York and Missouri and saw action during World War II. Born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, Richard Burton Matheson first became a published author while still a child, when his stories and poems ran in the "Brooklyn Eagle"( The Brooklyn Eagle, also called The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, was a daily newspaper published in Brooklyn, New York from October 26).
A lifelong reader of fantasy tales, he made his professional writing bow in 1950 when his short story "Born of Man and Woman" appeared in "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction"; Matheson turned out a number of highly regarded horror, fantasy and mystery stories throughout that decade. He broke into films in 1956, adapting his novel "The Shrinking Man" for the big-screen "The Incredible Shrinking Man."
Seizing the chance he negotiated the chance to write the screenplay, and he was in. Various things lead to another, and he worked with and along side a lot of the big names in the business. Still not exhausted of possibilities he moved onto television, writing the screenplay for the first break of a certain Steven Spielberg, then going on to create the top-rating telemovie up to that time The Night Stalker, along with its sequel The Night Strangler.

Richard Matheson’s View on Art

  • Richard Matheson is one of those worrisome people who always confuse advocates of little boxes labelled with genres and mediums. Indeed he's actively opposed to such ideas. 'Do anything you can to destroy genres' he says. 'A good story is a good story' . And this man knows what he's talking about, and has written some good stories in his time.
a tv play button button
A Tv play: Button, Button
  • Button, Button is an episode of The Twilight Zone. This episode was based off of the short story created by Richard Matheson, also titled "Button, Button". Mare Winningham is the wife of a down and out loser. One day, a smartly dressed stranger comes to their door and tells them they will be granted a large sum of money if they press the button within a special box he has. The catch ... once they press the button, someone somewhere in the world will die -- someone they don't know.
After pressing the button, the stranger returns and gives them the money, telling them someone, somewhere has indeed died. He takes the box back telling them it will next be given to someone else, who will be made the same offer ... someone they don't know.
  • "The Twilight Zone" Profile in Silver/Button, Button (1986)

Mr. Stward (in TV Series)

Norma Lewis (in TVSeries)

life insurance
  • One kind of insurances under the terms of the policy holder (投保人) makes regular payments (called premiums保险费) to the company and a sum of money (called indemnity赔偿金) will be paid to the family members by the company at the death of the policy holder. Suppose someone holds a life insurance policy for $ 25, 000. That means at his death, whether natural or accidental, the insurance company will pay to his family a sum of $ 25,000 dollars. However, the life insurance premiums are decided by the company, according to the age and health condition of the policy holder.
  • Fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements. a mode of fiction in which the possible and the impossible are confounded so as to leave the reader (and often the narrator and/or central character) with no consistent explanation for the storys’s strange events.
Tzvetan Todorov, in his Introduction a la litterature fantastique(1970: translated as The Fantastic ,1973), argures that fantastic narratives involve an unresolved hesitation between the supernatural explanation available in marvellous tales and the natural or psychological explanation offered by tales of the uncanny. The literature of the fantastic flourished in 19th-century ghost stories and related fiction: Henry James’s mysterious tale The Turn of the Screw(1898) is a classic example.
about the words and phrases
About the Words and Phrases

appal (American English: appall) to make someone feel very shocked and upset

The decision to execute the two men has appalled many politicians.

The way we kill animals appals a lot of people

astound: to make someone very surprised or shocked [= astonish]:

Her elopement astounded her parents.


He was perfectly astounded at the intelligence.


The figures revealed by the report are astounding.


counter: [intransitive and transitive]to say sth.in order to try to
  • prove that what sb. said was not true or as a reply to sth.
  • ‘ ‘I could ask the same thing of you,’ she countered.
  • counter an argument/an allegation/a criticism etc
  • He was determined to counter the bribery allegations.
guarantee :give surety or assume responsibility ;make certain of

We guarantee your satisfaction.


Many shopkeepers guarantee satisfaction to customers.


This garment is guaranteed fireproof.


inquire :have a wish or desire to know something

We must inquire further into the matter.


Let's inquire how to get there.


He has inquired out the deployment of the enemy troops.


repress :put down by force or intimidation

The dictator represses all opposition as illegal.


All protest is brutally repressed by the regime.


scoff : laugh at with contempt and derision

Marco Polo was scoffed at. 马可·波罗曾受嘲弄。

David scoffed at her fears.

‘You, a scientist!' he scoffed.

stack :arrange in stacks; an orderly pile

Stack dishwasher and start wash cycle. 把碗碟整齐地堆放在洗碗机内并开始洗涤。

The floor was stacked high with bales of cotton. 地板上高高地堆放着许多包棉花。

Piles of lumber were stacked along the road. 大量的木材堆放在路边。

thrust : push forcefully

He thrust at her with a knife. 他持刀向她刺去。

She was thrusting in a question or two occasionally. 她不时地插嘴提出一两个问题

New railroads are rapidly thrusting into the hilly regions. 新的铁路线迅速向山区延伸。

toss :throw with a light motion

He tossed the beggar a coin [tossed a coin to the beggar]. 他给乞丐扔了个硬币。

Let's toss to see who pays the bill. 让我们掷钱币决定谁来付帐。

He tossed about in his sleep all night. 他整夜翻来覆去睡不着。

make sentences with the words and phrases
Make Sentences with the Words and Phrases
  • hesitate;
  • smash;
  • stiffen;
  • authentic ;
  • impulsive ;
  • eccentric;
  • contemptuous;
  • work up ;
  • break in;
  • cut off
break in: to interrupt someone when they are speaking
  • break in on
  • I didn't want to break in on his telephone conversation.
  • break in with
  • Dad would occasionally break in with an amusing comment.
contemptuous:showing that you think someone or something deserves no respect
  • contemptuous glance
  • contemptuous of
  • He was openly contemptuous of his father.
cut off:to interrupt someone and stop them from finishing what they
  • were saying:
  • Emma cut him off in mid-sentence.
work up: to make someone very angry, excited, or upset about something
  • You're working yourself up again.
  • Kay hesitated for a moment and then said 'yes'.
  • He was still hesitating over whether to leave or not.
  • Don't hesitate to contact me if you need any more
  • Firemen had to smash the lock to get in.
  • A stolen car smashed into the bus.
  • The film smashed all box office records.
  • He touched her, and she stiffened.
  • Their opposition only stiffened my resolve.
authentic :

An authentic account by an eyewitness. 一份目击者的真实证言。

It is an authentic work of Qi Baishi. 这是齐白石的真迹。

But no authentic works by him are preserved. 但作品的真迹并没有流传下来

impulsive :

John is apt to be impulsive. 约翰易于冲动。

The rumor had its origin in an impulsive remark. 谣言源于一次冲动的谈话


He's eccentric by disposition.


A somewhat eccentric person; an oddball. 有些怪癖的人;怪人

My neighbor is an eccentric young man. 我的邻居是个古怪的年轻人。

about the story
About the Story

With a little imagination however, one might feel that the author could be ridiculing the moral failings of humanity as a whole rather than a few individuals like Norma in the story. As we all know that in recent history, many wars have been waged which have brought terrible miseries and sufferings to people.

One might note in passing(顺便) that in this story the woman is the greedy and insensitive one, while it is her husband who has the high moral standards. Certainly this happens in real life as well, but it is not quite representative. Commitment to monetary goals regardless of human costs is far more common among men than women in the West. This is clearly evidenced by the overwhelming preponderance of men in prison for theft and murder compared to women.
The ending tends to rely on a gimmick(暗机关). Norma is willing to accept another person's death as long as she doesn't know the person. While this point supposedly gains in strength by the fact that she is punished by the death of her husband, the more important and profound point gets lost. It, in fact, is not an unknown "old Chinese peasant" or "diseased native in the Congo" who dies because of her greed and insensitivity. The suggestion is that if it were one of these people, it would have mattered much less, and that it only matters because it is her husband whom she has killed.
The story tries to tell people that they should not covet ill-gotten wealth. Those who are liable to be tempted by it often bring nothing but misfortune on themselves. The Heroine, Norma, is both foolish, selfish and even cruel. The author presents this image before our eyes through a series of her psychological activities.
the parts of the story
The Parts of the Story
  • The story can be divided into three parts. The first part, from the beginning to “She hung up angrily”, tells about the first appearance of the box, the box owner’s explanation of the use of the button in the box, and reactions of the heroine and her husband to his words.
The second part, from “The package was lying …” to “… and hurried to dress for work”, tells about the reappearance of the box. It also begins to reveal Norma’s foolishness, yet the stress is on the exposure of the evil and selfish side of her innermost being.
The third part, from “She had just turned over…” to the end, tells about Norma’s feelings at being fooled when she has learnt about her husband’s sudden death in a subway accident. In the end the author expresses his biting sarcasm in the form of a question raised by Mr. Steward.
about the text
About the Text
  • 1) The title
  • The repeated use of the word “Button” expresses the heroine’s strong feeling of amazement and resentment when she found herself fooled in the end.
the package was lying
The package was lying…
  • package: something wrapped in paper, packed in a box and then sent by mail or delivered [= parcel British English]
  • There's a package here for a Miami Lakes address.
  • [American English]: the paper or plastic container that food or other goods are sold in [= packet British English]
a cube-shaped carton sealed with tape: a carton having the shape of a cube, which was fastened or closed with (sticky) tape. Similar expressions:
  • a heart-shaped candy; a star-shaped fish
cube: a solid object with six equal square sides
  • carton: a small box made of cardboard or plastic that contains food or a drink
  • seal: to close an envelope, package etc by using something sticky to hold its edges in place
lamb chop special cuts of meat from a young sheep
lamb chop: special cuts of meat from a young sheep

broiler: American English a special area of a stove used for cooking food under direct heat [= grill British English]

inside the carton was a push button unit fastened to a small wooden box
Inside the carton was a push-button unit fastened to a small wooden box.

The sentence is an inverted one.

  • push-button: [only before noun] operated by pressing a button with your finger:
mr steward will call on you
Mr. Steward will call on you…
  • call on: visit [intransitive] also call round British English to stop at a house or other place for a short time to see someone or do something
  • She called round for a chat.
  • call on somebody
  • Let's call on James on the way home.
I’ll get it: I’ll go and see who the visitor is. It is a commonly used expression in daily life. "Get" here means 'take' or 'deal with'. Also: I'll get it (I’ll answer the phone).
norma repressed a smile
Norma repressed a smile:
  • = She wanted to smile, but didn't because it would not be polite. She thought the visitor was a salesman who had left the package by her door. She believed he was there to persuade her to buy the package.
a sales pitch
a sales pitch
  • salesmen's way of persuading people to buy the goods they are trying to sell
  • informal way of referring to something whose name one either does not know or remember. The word is actually formed by putting together the phrase, “What you might call it.”
monetarily she challenged
"Monetarily?" she challenged
  • =Is it valuable monetarily? Does it have a high value in terms of money?
  • challenge: to stop someone and demand proof of who they are, and an explanation of what they are doing:
  • We were challenged by the security guard at the gate.
11) Mr. Steward reached into his pocket…
  • reach into something / reach something
  • withdraw: [transitive] literary to take an object out from inside something
  • withdraw something from something
  • She withdrew a document from her briefcase.
  • bell-unit dome: dome looking like a bell
12) a practical joke: a trick played on somebody in order to make him appear ridiculous or to amuse others
13) Not at all. The offer…
  • offer: the promise of doing this and getting the money is true
You aren' t making sense: It's hard to understand what you are talking about. You are talking nonsense.
15) picked up the subject: started talking about the push-button unit again. Cf. to drop the subject
17) Norma slid beneath the covers.
  • slid: (the past form of slide) to move downward
  • covers: quilt
18) impulsively: acting on impulse. She suddenly picked up the torn card and dropped them into her purse without giving too much thought to it.
) Not that I believe a word of what you told us: I am curious about the unit, but it does not mean that I believe what you told me.
21) Well, of all the nerve, she thought. = She is angry that Mr. Steward assumed that she would want the package. Here "nerve" means impudence. "Of all the nerve," is an elliptical sentence. The words left out are: "This is the limit/worst kind (of all impudence I've ever seen)".
… and put it in a bottom cabinet:
  • bottom cabinet: the lowest lay of the cabinet
23) some eccentric millionaire: any strange-acting millionaire, a millionaire who behaves in peculiar ways. Notice the use of "some" with singular nouns which indicates that the person, place etc. is unknown or not specific.
  • I've read the story before in some book.
How would you define it?: What would you say it is if it is not murder? How would you describe the nature of it?
25) If you don’t even know the person? = She is actually saying that it is not murder if someone you don't know dies when you push the button and cause the death.
26) Are you saying what I think you are? = Are you saying that you are going to do it?
  • Arthur was so shocked when he heard what Norma said that he simply could not believe it.
27) "The point is," Norma broke in ...:
  • the point; the most important or essential part of what she is trying to say.
  • broke in; interrupted
29) A chance to buy that cottage
  • cottage: a small house in the country
30) All right, take it easy…
  • take it easy: spoken used to tell someone to become less upset or angry
What is the occasion?
  • Arthur asked this because his wife got up earlier than usual and cooked a big breakfast.
38) to get so worked up over nothing: to become so upset for no reason. This may refer to her argument with her husband, her own conflict over whether to push the button or not, or simply to the "chill of terror" which swept over her just after she pushed the button.
"No"! She struggled to her feet: 'No' is used for expressing great surprise, doubt or disbelief. She rose to her feet with a great effort.
41) Something cold pressed at her skull: She was so stunned that she could feel no pain or anything as she removed the button unit from the wastebasket.
42) It wasn’t her voice shrieking so; it couldn’t be: She screamed to Mr Steward over the phone in such a way that even she herself couldn’t recognize her voice. She had never screamed at people like that.
about the excercises
About the Excercises
  • Explain the following in bold type.
  • a … carton sealed with tape: fastened or closed
  • She was sure now it was a sales pitch. salesmen’s way of persuading people to buy the goods they are trying to sell
Is this a practical joke? giving someone a surprise or shock, or to make them look stupid
  • You aren’t making sense. to have a clear meaning and be easy to understand
  • If it is, it’s a sick one. in bad taste about a serious or important or highly valued thing
Not that I believe a word of what you told us. It does not mean that…
  • “Well, of all the nerve,” she thought. having done something unsuitable or impolite, without seeming to be embarrassed about behaving in this way
“The point is,” Norma broke in. interrupted
  • All right, take it easy. Telilng someone to become less upset or angry
… in order to study reactions, see if there’s guilt …, whatever! guilt which is hard to explain or define
  • Ridiculous, she thought, to get so worked up over nothing. to become so upset for no reason
She remembered Arthur’s life-insurance policy for…a contract with an insurance company, or an official written statement giving all the details of such a contract
complete these sentences
Complete these sentences
  • 1) “Mrs. Lewis? = Are you Mrs. Lewis?
  • 2) “Monetarily?” = It could prove very valuable monetarily?
  • 3) “Something wrong?” = Is there something wrong?
  • 4) “Up to you.” = It’s up to you.
5) “Well, why not?” = Well, why cannot you come in?
  • 6) “I don’t care to know.” = I don’t care to know what it was.
  • 7) “Could be.” = Could it be some kind of psychological research?
8) “Not that I believe a word of what you told us.” = That I call is not that I believe a word of what you told us.
  • 9) “Well, whatever —” = Well,
10) “If you don’t even know the person?”
  • 11) “Why has the amount—”
  • 12) “A chance to buy that cottage.”
  • 13) “In what way?”
useful phrases and idioms
Useful phrases and idioms
  • to press forward拥挤前行     
  • to bend over something俯身在什么上面
  • to detach oneself from某人离开什么人
  • to be far behind in something在什么方面远远落后
  • to make something over缝补
  • peel potatoes削土豆皮
word formation
Word formation:
  • Suffix: -ed [形容词后缀] 1.加在名词之后,表示“有…的”,“如…的”, “…的”
  • dark-haired; gifted; winged; skilled
  • 2. 加在动词之后, 表示“已…的”,“被…的”,“有…的”, “…了的”
  • failed 已失败了的; fixed被固定的; liberated解放了的; educated 受过教育的
10 translate
10) Translate:
  • A b)The rice fields are turning into a glorious yellow. The harvesting season is drawing.
  • e) I’d like to draw everybody’s attention to the immediate danger we are facing.
  • f) A plan to turn Hainan Island into a tourist center has already been drawn up. And I believe, before long this beautiful island will begin to draw/attract more and more tourists.
  • i) If we adopt this new method/technique, we can cut/reduce the cost by half.
m) Paper-cutting is a traditional art in our country.
  • n) Cut the meat into small cubes of about one inch. Next put in a bit of soya sauce, ginger, wine and a dash of gugar, and then simmer it.
  • B a)Would you care to go to the reception tonight?
  • c) While at college, you should involve yourself in activities of all kinds so as to meet people and gain experience.
f) It involves quite a lot of risks. We must inform everyone of this decision.
  • g) We must keep ourselves well-informed of the latest developments in our own fields.
  • h) His family has not yet been informed of his death.
  • i) There are too many technical terms in it. No one can make any sense out of it.
  • k) What can I do to repay for what she did for me during my illness?
m) A storm swept over this area last night.
  • n) Of all the things you could do!
  • r)These people have no idea that education is the key to the whole modernization effort.
  • s)It’s a special day today. I’ll take a little whiskey.
  • t) English is useful. After graduation, you could be an interpreter, or a teacher, or a diplomat, whatever.