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On March 4th 1960, The Twilight Zone aired an episode called "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." What Rod Serling managed to achieve in writing this particular episode is not only a critique on human nature gone awry, but also how susceptible each one of us are to savagery, based on rather stupid and hypocritical reasons. The episode starts looking like the ‘perfect’ Saturday afternoon in the summer, in a lively neighborhood where at first glance everyone seemed to get along. At first assuming it’s a meteor, a bright flash of light passes over the awestruck Maple street residents, which roars with a loud otherworldly screech, promptly killing ALL the power in the area. No one can use their stoves, lawn mowers, cars, or phones. I’m sure the dead phone part has most of you scared already.
As they all gather together in the street to try and make sense of what they’ve just seen, no one knows what exactly happened or why. A man named Pete van Horn, slings his hammer in his belt goes off alone to see if the next street is having the same problems. Just before two other men named Steve Brand and Charlie Farnsworth along with another neighbor named Don, are about to make their way into town on foot after not being able to start Steve’s car, a young teenager named Tommy approaches them with a claim that at first seems beyond ridiculous. Basing his certainty of what’s happening on what he saw in a comic book, Tommy tells everyone everything they’ve just experienced is the beginning stages of an alien invasion. Furthermore, according to Tommy, not only will anyone be able to leave the block isolated by the power outage, the aliens have sent a scout party ahead of them, taking the form of a human family to disguise their presence, hiding out among all of them in plain sight. They would be the only ones that would be allowed to leave.
The adults dismiss the notion and do their best to dissuade Tommy while clearly trying not to be frightened by his speculation, one neighbor even wondering why they were so frightened of something a kid read from a comic book. Though Charlie begins to wonder why Pete Van Horn hasn’t returned. Another man named Les Goodman, who’s trying in vain to get his car started, finally gets out and walks away from it, and moves closer to the others. Goodman’s car finally starts all on its own, prompting Charlie and a few others to start looking at Goodman suspiciously, wondering why he hadn’t shown the same interest in the thing that’d flown over their heads as they did, and labeling him and his whole family "oddballs," decides Goodman is as good as a monster from the way him and the other charge in.
Steve reprimands his neighbors for acting like a mob as they calmly walk to Goodman, whose car suddenly shuts off. Everyone starts in on Goodman right away, Charlie being an instigator. Steve remains the only sensible one in the group, coming to Goodman’s defense even after his car starts and stops again. But when an older lady, who appears to be a bit of a busy body herself, asks Goodman why he’s often up at the early morning hours looking longingly at the sky, even Steve backs away in fear as Goodman, who says they’ve been living there for over five years, walks closer to them.
The power remains off on Maple Street as darkness falls, and Charlie, who despite his wife’s reminder of their long friendship with the Goodman’s, is gathered outside their house with the others. They keep their distance but watch the Goodman’s like vultures. Charlie has appointed himself judge and jury over Maple Street and reasons to himself and his wife that no upstanding person would look up at the sky early in the morning. As Steve tries to reach out to the Goodman’s once again, Charlie is quick to point the finger. Don, another neighbor make a very public mention of Steve’s ham radio he’s been building and how none of them have seen it.
Charlie begins to use habits and doings he’s unfamiliar with as evidence that someone is an alien. Steve warns Charlie and everyone around, what they’re doing will only result in destruction. Steve’s words seem to have made a difference as everyone begins to reflect on what they’re doing. But this only lasts for a moment as a shadowy figure carrying a hammer is seen walking up. Tommy claims it to be the monster and Don runs off for a moment, returning with a shotgun. They argue over it for a moment, but Charlie ends up with the gun and in a panic, shoots the figure he believes is an alien. But as the crowd comes up to the body, they realize Charlie has just killed their neighbor, Pete Van Horn.
Charlie tries to defend his hasty actions. The lights in his house suddenly turn on and now all the suspicion is lobbed onto Charlie. This time Steve doesn’t defend his neighbor as the crowd chases Charlie as he runs to his house, throwing rocks at him which cut his head. With the crowd in a frenzy and ready to kill, Charlie claims that he knows that Tommy is the real monster. Several in the crowd agree because of how Tommy knew what was going to happen. But as they begin to run Tommy down as well, the lights, cars, lawn mowers, and all other electronics begin flickering on and off. Maple street descends into all out anarchy and people who started off as neighbors and friends during the day, were killing each other that very night.
On a hilltop, an alien spacecraft is directly over Maple Street. Two aliens observe everything that has taken place, and almost seem to have a scientific way of knowing how it would result. Simply messing with the consistency and complacency that people form causes paranoia and panic, which in turn leads to violence. They seem confident as they leave that world conquest using a similar method, will prove quite simple, causing everyone to fear and look for a scapegoat, while ignoring the mob of monsters they’ve become.
Like most of The Twilight Zone, the story is there to get across a political or personal statement about the world at large and we who dwell in it. "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" makes one truly wonder who exactly the monster in the story was. It makes one wonder who their friends and neighbors are underneath the surface, and what kind of person they’re likely to become when times are uncertain. Fear and desperation are a natural emotion when faced with things we don’t understand, but what this episode suggests is that our emotions can often be used as a weapon against us. That a neighborhood of friends can turn into a violent mob quite easily, and that it's often the simplest and stupidest of things that cause us to divide and turn against people we may have even once called our friends. And in the end, when our conquerors walk over us after having divided us, we will have not really anyone else to blame but ourselves.
“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices... to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill... and suspicion can destroy... and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own – for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone”. – Rod Serling.