It's a Good Life: 01/12/17
When reading Bone Gap by Laura Ruby and Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper and Raúl the Third got me thinking about the role the cornfield plays in the American road narrative. In both these stories, the cornfields play significant roles in hindering the main characters' desire to use the road.
Specifically I was looking at the cornfield as a setting in relationship to what I call the "road not taken." In a road narrative, there are those who can pass through easily, and those who either cannot or chose not to leave.
The cornfield serves as a barrier, marking a threshold between the safety (perceived or actual) of the town and the outside. And that brings me to my current review, a short story — "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby. Twilight Zone fans will recognize this story as the source material for season three, episode eight, staring Bill Mumy as six year old monster, Anthony.
Anthony can do things with his mind and he's been holding the townspeople hostage for some unstated amount of time. Anyone who disobeys his wishes is "sent to the cornfield." In the television episode, being "sent to the cornfield" can be seen as a euphemism for banishment or imprisonment. In Bixby's original text, it's explicitly entombment. Anthony is using the bodies of his victims (human and animal alike) to enrich the soil.
The cornfield besides being a mass graveyard, serves as it so often does, as the demarkation of the town (population 46). It is the furthest reaches of Anthony's mind and power. Beyond that cornfield is anyone's guess. It could be the rest of the world that they've been cut off from or it could be a void if they are now living in a bubble.
The isolation that the cornfield provides for Anthony's prisoners is similar to the way the maze of maize is used by the trickster in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth to protect the entrance to the underworld. The cornfield in Bone Gap meanwhile acts as a barrier between the town and the place where Roza is being held captive.
"It's a Good Life" is one more interesting look at the cornfield motif in the American road narrative. I will be posting a longer article about cornfields soon.