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A Stop at Willoughby

"A Stop at Willoughby" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling cited this as his favorite story from the first season of the series.

Opening narration

This is Gart Williams, age thirty-eight, a man protected by a suit of armor all held together by one bolt. Just a moment ago, someone removed the bolt, and Mr. Williams' protection fell away from him and left him a naked target. He's been cannonaded this afternoon by all the enemies of his life. His insecurity has shelled him, his sensitivity has straddled him with humiliation, his deep-rooted disquiet about his own worth has zeroed in on him, landed on target, and blown him apart. Mr. Gart Williams, ad agency exec, who in just a moment will move into the Twilight Zone—in a desperate search for survival.

Synopsis

Gart Williams is an advertising executive who has grown exasperated with the stress of the business life and whilst being unable to sleep properly at home, constantly drifts off for short naps on the train during his daily commuting and dreams of a peaceful place called "Willoughby." Set in the year 1888, Willoughby exudes a peaceful, stress-free lifestyle long gone. After he finally snaps at his workplace, and after being rebuffed in a plea for help to his selfish, uncaring and cold hearted wife, he exits the train while in his dream so he can live in Willoughby. In reality, he jumped off the train to his death. His body is eventually loaded into a hearse owned by Willoughby & Son Funeral Home.

Closing narration

Willoughby? Maybe it's wishful thinking nestled in a hidden part of a man's mind, or maybe it's the last stop in the vast design of things, or perhaps, for a man like Mr. Gart Williams, who climbed on a world that went by too fast, it's a place around the bend where he could jump off. Willoughby? Whatever it is, it comes with sunlight and serenity, and is a part of the Twilight Zone.

Preview for Next Week's Story

In this library, a certain professor sells things: ointments, sèves, powders, sovereign remedies, nectars, concoctions, decoctions, and potions all guaranteed. Next week, he'll sell one to a lover boy so that he can slip an affectionate mickey into the champagne of his lady love. It sets up a most bizarre and very unexpected chain of events. On The Twilight Zone next week, "The Chaser."

Influence

The "Bradbury account" is a reference to seminal science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who wrote the Twilight Zone episode "I Sing the Body Electric".

In the story, the main character, Gart Williams works in New York but resides in the Connecticut town of Westport, which is a real town. Writer Rod Serling himself actually lived in Westport and commuted back and forth to New York City briefly in the latter part of the 1950s before he relocated out to the west coast. Also: in the scenes the train conductor walks down the aisle and reads off the list of upcoming town stops, all of which exist in real life, and are read in the correct order if one takes the Metro North Commuter Railroad (New Haven Line) from New York City's Grand Central Station.

Willoughby is also a real city in Northeast Ohio. Rod Serling lived for a time in Canton, Ohio, and if he traveled to New York by train would have ridden through the town (which did indeed have its own stop). The town square still looks today much as it did over a hundred years ago, right down to the statue honoring local Civil War soldiers.

Gart Williams' train ride home shows snow and wind swirling at the windows, hinting at a dark, coldness that is his life. In contrast, Willoughby is set in mid-July, a warm sunny summer's day, to contrast the mood of both times and places.

An episode of the TV series "thirtysomething," first broadcast on May 14, 1991, is titled "A Stop at Willoughby." It loosely explores the same theme as the Twilight Zone episode of the same name.

Williams gets up from his desk, smashes the mirror in the bathroom. When he comes out, the telephone on the right of the desk is hung up in the opposite position.

When Williams is leaving the train into Willoughby for the last time, the song Oh! Susanna can be heard in the background.

Themes

The theme of a man working in the business world, and the work environment becoming increasingly stressful (to the breaking point) is a familiar theme in the Twilight Zone. This theme is similarly explored in "Walking Distance", "A World of Difference", "The Brain Center at Whipple's" and two Serling teleplays from before and after The Twilight Zone: Patterns and the Night Gallery episode "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar".

External links

References

  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090

Twilight Zone links

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