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NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

unreality to them. They had become flattened somehow, deprived of everything that actually made them unique. They were quaint,

that Lincolnton is “just like Mayberry” to me, even people who have lived there their whole lives. There seems to be a desire for small towns to conform to an ideal of the quaint, both from those who live in them, as well as those who are just visiting. The ideal is also a lucrative marketing point: Lincolnton is now advertising itself as “Near the Mountains, Near the City, Near Perfect,” as well as heavily emphasizing the “historic” nature of the I can’t tell you how many times people town. The ideal is borne out in realty listings that string together countless prehave remarked that Lincolnton is cious adjectives and phrases to describe “just like Mayberry” to me, even people the area: “picturesque,” “small-town who have lived there their whole lives. charm,” “warmth of the people.” These descriptors appeal to both locals and prospective buyers alike: who wouldn’t want to live in a fairytale land of friendly farmers they were adorable, they were whimsical, they and rich cultural heritage? were everything a Charlotte soccer mom had ever We want this idealized reality because we want dreamed of in a cute small town, but they weren’t to be more like the small towns on TV. We want to real. Not even the town in the article was real. It believe that all of our problems are easily solvable was no longer a place, but an aesthetic, a prop to by friendliness and country wisdom. We want to be used in someone else’s fantasy. think that we’re living in a privileged rural ideal This reduction shouldn’t really be surprising. where everything is blessed and everything is full, The desire to seek simpler, cleaner living in the if not of purpose, then of a sort of contentment country and small towns, and, more importantly, with our lot and a faith that we will go on living the the wholehearted belief that this sort of life actually way we have always lived, no matter what. Newcomexists there, isn’t new. You can find it in old shows ers and visitors want to believe that they’ve left like Andy Griffith, where nothing ever happens in the mayhem of Charlotte or Chicago or the entire Mayberry that can’t be solved by neighborliness and state of New Jersey and entered a place of calm good old-fashioned country wisdom. You see it today and plenty, almost like a retirement village but with in the Hallmark Channel movies playing on TVs in guns, land, and the occasional Confederate genwaiting rooms year round: the hero or heroine ends eral’s grave. What people are really seeking when up in a quaint small town, rediscovers what they’ve they invest themselves in the ideal of the quaint, forgotten in college or the Marines or New York, meets a good ol’ boy or girl, learns some homespun truths from an elderly relative, and discovers the true meaning of home, family, and romance, supported and accepted by the quirky yet lovable population of the rustic little locale where the The desire to seek simpler, movie takes place. The small town has a sort cleaner living in the country of Edenic quality to it in our and small towns, and, collective imagination. Smallmore importantly, town America is depicted as the last pure place, innocent in the wholehearted belief the midst of urban corruption. that this sort of life People seem eager to believe it, actually exists there, isn’t new. as well. I can’t tell you how many times people have remarked

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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