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Road Essays
FF3366: orphans going offroad to rural places

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FF3366: orphans going offroad to rural places: 02/07/19

FF3366: orphans going offroad to rural places

Next stop for the orphan traveler in the road narrative spectrum is the rural destination by way of an offroad route. For this essay, I'm including a discussion of two novels, Finding Fortune by Delia Ray and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. The former qualifies for being written by an American author and being set in Mississippi. The latter is an outlier but I've mentioned before how Japanese literature has many examples of road narratives that fit well within the spectrum.

As always we start with the traveler. The orphan is a solo traveler. Ren, though she has parents (who are in the middle of a divorce), needs a place to escape from the family drama. She thus takes her bike and rides out of town to a nearby ghost town, Fortune. Tsukuru has been abandoned by his friends and has spent the first decade or so of adulthood feeling adrift. He decides to make amends for this by reconnecting with his former friends.

The solo traveler, especially in fantasies, has access to abilities that other types of travelers do not. For more realistic fiction such as these two examples, the magic is mostly metaphorical. For Ren, her ability as an outsider is that she's able to help track down the treasure hidden in the old school, now serving as a boarding house.

For Tsukuru, there is a hint of powers linked up with the severing of an extra digit. In other Murakami novels, that missing digit would link him to a twin (and put the novel in the CC3366 category) but here it is just a hint at powers (or perhaps a lingering curse) that hangs over Tsukuru.

For the case of the destination, I pick the one that stands out the most or is the most difficult to reach. Now for Ren, there is only one destination, the former town of Fortune. It's in a town so small that it has gone bust, whose only residents are those at the boarding house.

For Tsukuru, his final destination is a farmhouse outside Helsinki. And while Helsinki has about the same population as San Francisco, Tsukuru's reaction to being so far from home, is how remote the location feels. It is that personal, emotional response that has prompted me to set the destination as rural, rather than city.

Finally there is the method of travel. Again, I pick the most extreme route of travel. For Ren, it's her bicycle and whatever paths she uses to get from home to Fortune and back. Since she's originally riding to clear her head, the path isn't a well established road (a Blue Highway).

For Tsukuru, within Tokyo he's primarily taking trains and highways but again, it's that last trip to Finland via an airplane where his pilgrimage finally brings him the emotional closure he's looking for (though not in the form he expected). That flight counts as offroad.

In the first example, we have a child looking for a place to clear her head. Her journey ends up being to a location where she is able to make new friends and to have the thrill of solving an old treasure hunt. Her journey begins as a psychological one and ends up being one where she can help people and learn about the past of a neighboring former town.

In the second example, the pilgrimage around Japan and then to Finland is a means for Tsukuru to work through his depression and his feelings of abandonment. The journey is one of personal growth and self reflection with a maturity that reflects his next step in adulthood.

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