Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rod Serling teaches a lesson in humanity...

One of my favorite episodes of the original Twilight Zone series is The Passersby. If you've never seen it, you should. If you've seen it, no doubt it is also one of your favorites too.

It's the end of the Civil War and a wounded Confederate Army Sergeant, aided by a crutch, is limping down a long and desolate road. He spots an obviously once-lavish and beautiful now war torn house and stops there to rest. He is greeted by a lady named Lavinia Godwin, whose husband was killed in the war. Lavinia, who tells him she has been very ill lately, allows him to rest at the house and have some water and they talk while the Sergeant plays his guitar. The song he plays is one her husband used to sing called "Black is the color of my true love's hair". As he plays, more soldiers walk by the house, seemingly in a daze. They are dressed in both Union and Confederate uniforms. Lavinia and the Sergeant talk to a couple of the soldiers whose behavior seems to indicate they may be more than just wounded. The more they talk to the soldiers, the more that it becomes evident at least to the Sergeant that maybe there's something more to this road passing her house. The Sergeant, realizing his fate, departs to follow the soldiers  and as Lavinia tries to stop him, they suddenly they hear a voice in the distance. It's Lavinia's dead husband singing the song he used to sing for her. Lavinia's husband tells her that everyone traveling along the road, including her, is dead and she does not believe it. He tells her he will be seeing her soon and he takes off down the road. As her husband leaves her, she is now all alone. As she drops to her knees, she is greeted by a soft-spoken bearded man in a black suit and hat. It is Abraham Lincoln. He helps her to her feet and Lavinia is obviously confused by his presence. He tells her that he is the last man on that road and that he is "the last casualty of the civil war." Lavinia is strangely comforted by this kind, soft-spoken man who was once considered the "enemy". He tells her "you see, I'm dead too" and the realization finally hits her, not just that the President is dead but that she is dead too. Lavinia turns and runs after her husband, clinging to him as they walk down that road together. Behind them, Lincoln follows, with no one behind him. He really is the last man on that road. 

Like so many of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone episodes, this one contains a clear message, one that is supposed to teach us something about ourselves and our humanity. Take for example the Confederate and Union soldiers walking down the road together. These men whose lifestyles and ideologies were so different that they caused them to kill each other in the trenches, are no longer enemies. Now they have a common bond, a common fate, they travel down that long and lonely road of death together. No longer is there ideology, hatred, guns, or war. Also, consider Lavinia Godwin and President Lincoln, who, like the soldiers, were divided in life by opinions, beliefs, and lifestyles. In the end they were not so different after all, for both were not only casualties of their beliefs but of man's inhumanity to man. 

1 comment:

  1. I've watched that so many times but never before now thought about it in the way you have. Very good Jess!