‘A STOP AT WILLOUGHBY’: THE TWILIGHT ZONE EPISODE THAT EXPLORES OUR NEED TO TRAVEL
“a place around the bend where he could jump off”
Created during a time (1959-1964) when American television seemed eerily clean and domestic, The Twilight Zone challenged viewers to examine a possibility of uncertainty beyond the comforts and assumptions of contemporary life. It was my favorite thing on TV. One episode in particular always stuck with me- A Stop at Willoughby. It brings up questions. How could such a ‘successful’ man working in a New York tower and living in an upscale suburb be so miserable? Why would he dream of escaping to a sleepy village where the streets have no name and the children wear overalls and go fishing?
A STOP AT WILLOUGHBY is the story of an advertising executive named Gart. Gart feels endless pressure from his pugnacious boss and his minion-like coworkers at his New York City office during the day, and then more of the same from his greedy wife back at home in suburban Connecticut. The people in Gart’s life push him through his daily routine, making him depressed, hopeless and remorseful. What an outsider may view as success, Gart sees as a grave.
The only respite Gart has is his commute home by train. Gradually, while dozing off one snowy November evening commute, he awakens into a dream to see an unfamiliar stop in a tiny, all-American town. He gazes out the train window and sees smiling, content country folk strolling through a sunny, traditional town square.
Gart turns back to the mutton-chopped train conductor to ask what the town is:
“but there’s no Willoughby on this line. And look at it outside! The sun is out; it’s summer”
…”it’s July- summer, 1888. Really a lovely little village, you ought to try it sometime: peaceful, restful- where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full-measure.”
Gart runs the length of the train car looking for an exit. He’s curious. Suddenly the train jerks forward and Gart is awakened back into November, 1960, en route to his nasty wife. He turns to the clean-shaven train conductor, who assures Gart that there is no Willoughby on the line.
Gart then begins dreaming of Willoughby each night on his commute home. He consciously decides that he’ll get off next time.
Willoughby suggests an escape from something; the longing for changing your life through a change in location. I highly recommend spending 23 minutes on it: