Is sympathy called for in response to the opening scene when we realize, that the passersby are Confederate soldiers at the close of The Civil War in April, 1865, and the house they are passing contains an ailing Confederate woman, Lavinia, whose husband was killed in that war? If that’s the way it seems, it is quickly corrected by Serling’s introduction, which refers to the locations as “a strange province that knows neither North nor South.”
Our conviction that we are in the deep South is heightened, however, by the ailing Lavinia, who is understandably embittered by the outcome of a war that Southerners were told they would win in a month. Watching the Confederate soldiers pass by is too much for her. She wallows in anger against and disdain for the enemy.
We learn that the soldiers on the road are not just the soldiers of the south, but Union soldiers as well, and when Lavinia’s husband returns, and we know that he died, we figure out that the road represents the casualties of war, and everyone is heading to the end of the road. So it’s not a road in a place, north or south. It’s a road we’re all on, sooner or later.
Abe Lincoln appears, also a casualty of the war, but he consoles Lavinia, quoting Shakespeare: “Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange, that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” (Julius Caesar. Act II, Scene 2)
It is true that death is inevitable, and that even though it is, it may be hard to accept it, and difficult not to fear it, as we step on the road. But against the background of the cause of all these premature deaths, the war itself, it’s hard not to side with Lavinia, and resist its call. Our sympathies may rest with Lavina after all, even though she’s a Southerner.