The road not taken: 04/01/16
I'm taking a detour with my road narrative reading to explore the tropes that arise out of the urban vs rural dichotomy. Most road trip stories aren't just a collection of arrivals and departures from big cities. Much of their time is spent on the rural roads, stopping in out of the way towns with populations ranging in the dozens.
Against the play of urban and rural, often one side comes out as good and the other as bad — protagonist and antagonist. Which side is good depends on the frame of reference. For urbanite on a road trip, the rural way station is the threatening, dark place waiting to do the unwary driver and passenger(s) harm.
When the focus is changed from the driver to the townspeople, the entire road narrative structure unfolds. The road stops being a honeytrap for travelers, instead being an unwanted but necessary connection to a wider and more dangerous world. The road brings in goods and services. The road offers escape for those who wish it but it also invites in dangerous beings.
One way in which evil descends on the rural township is the traveling carnival, whether it's a circus or a medicine show. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, Mr. Dark's Pandemonium Carnival brings the worst nightmares to life and steels the very life force from its youth. In Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Finn must go against the unexpected early arrival of the carnival to rescue Roz. In The Boneshaker by Kate Milford and in the 1977 version of Pete's Dragon the towns are besieged by snake oil salesmen and their medicine shows.
The circus or traveling show as threat to the rural town is an interesting tangent in the road narrative tropes. I'm not sure yet how much I'll explore it, but I want to acknowledge it in case I see it reoccurring with frequency.