Ray Bradbury: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a horror classic by Ray Bradbury written in 1962. The story begins with two boys, Jim Nightshade and William (Will) Halloway lying down on a hill. A man who sells lightning rods, later found to be Tom Fury, intently approaches them saying that a storm is coming to town, and gives Jim a lighting rod to save his house. Later on Jim, Will, and Will’s father, Charles Halloway find out that a carnival is going to start the next day after seeing signs and flyers that say “Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show”. Jim and Will are excited, but Charles Halloway senses something strange about it, since carnivals normally don’t arrive this late in the year. The carnival arrives at three in the morning the next day, and Jim and Will go to the carnival to explore it. After seeing their teacher look stunned and a bit terrified by the mirror maze, they go back that night, where they meet Mr. Dark and Mr. Cooger, who grab them off of the “broken” carousel when Jim and Will sit on the horses. After getting free passes from Mr. Dark for the carousel, they witness Mr. Cooger riding the carousel backwards, which turns him younger and younger into a little boy. Afterwards, the boys and Charles Halloway experience an adventure of encounters with Mr. Dark, Mr. Cooger and the rest of the people they transformed using the carousel, which leads us to the main theme of this book, that happiness and joy are the best way to combat evil.

In the book, the carnival and the “freaks” (as they are referred to as) live and thrive on other people’s fear and sorrow. So when Charles Halloway comes around, he uses laughter, joy, and happiness to combat the evilness of the Dust Witch and all the other carnival characters, killing them in the end. For example, in Chapter 44, Mr. Halloway (Charles Halloway) is encountered by the Dust Witch, who is trying to slow his heart down and kill him. At first, he lets the Dust Witch to slow down his heart, saying “Get over with it!”. However, after a few moments, he starts giggling and laughing, not knowing why. “Why? Why am I… giggling… at such a time!?”, he said. Mr. Halloway keeps on laughing more and more, letting all the joy and happiness and jokes run through him, just to not give the Dust Witch what she wants: fear and sadness. He did all this without still completely knowing why.

“‘God!’ He popped his eyes wide, gulped air, released more soap and water washing everything clear, incredibly clean. ‘Toys! The key sticks out your back! Who wound you up!?’ And the largest roar of all, flung at the woman, burnt her hands, seared her face, or so it seemed, for she seized herself as from a blast furnace, wrapped her fried hands in Egyptian rags, gripped her dry dugs, skipped back, gave pause, then started a slow retreat, nudged, pushed, pummeled inch by inch, foot by foot, clattering book racks, shelves, fumbling for handholds on volumes that thrashed free as she scrambled them down. Her brow knocked dim histories, vain theories, duned-up time, promised but compromised years. Chased, bruised, beaten by his laugh which echoed,rang, swam to fill the marble vaults, she whirled at last, claws razoring the wild air and fled to fall downstairs.” (Chapter 44, Page 230)

After a while, the Witch couldn’t take it anymore. People who do wrong or bad things always are looking for one thing: the misery of the other person. That is why to go against that, you have to show them some cheerfulness and not give in to what they want.

Another similar situation of this is portrayed in Chapter 47, where during a “carnival” show at the evil carnival, Mr. Dark asks the crowd if there are any volunteers to shoot a rifle. However, by the time Mr. Dark realizes that the Dust Witch forgot to stop the janitors clock (to keep Will and Jim trapped in the wax museum as wax figures), it was too late. Charles Halloway volunteers to shoot the rifle, despite the fact that his left hand was sort of ripped off and broken by the Witch.

With the help of Will, who made it out of the wax museum alive, he carved a smile on the bullet, with a secret intention to dissolve her with it. Before he shot the rifle, he mouthed these words to the Dust Witch: “‘The crescent moon I have marked on the bullet is not a crescent moon. It is my own smile. I have put my smile on the bullet in the rifle.’ He said it once. He waited for her to understand. He said it, silently, again.” (Chapter 47, Page 251). Later on, he realizes “When I fired the shot, did she suck the other bullet down her throat? Did she… choke on my smile!” (Chapter 48, Page 253). In a way, Ray Bradbury, the author, uses ‘smiles’ as symbolism for the happiness and joy in the story that has brought the boys and Mr. Halloway to victory but the carnival “freaks” to defeat.

In Chapter 54, Jim escapes from the wax museum after being turned into a wax figure and “sleepwalks” onto the carousel. After Will pulls him off through much struggle, he was found unconscious or as they first thought “dead”. Will starts crying, but Mr. Halloway gets him to start dancing and singing. They jump up and down singing songs such as Oh Susanna, and after an exhausting amount of time Jim finally wakes up, alive. At the beginning of all this, Charles Halloway says something important to the meaning of this theme: “‘Will: louder, funnier, as the man said! Oh, hell, don’t let them drink your tears and want more! Will! Don’t let them take your crying, turn it upside down and use it for their own smile! I’ll be damned if death wears my sadness for glad rags. Don’t feed them one damn thing, Willy, loosen your bones! Breathe! Blow!’ ” (Chapter 54, Page 283). The true meaning of this is to not let thesadness take over you and to not let anyone take advantage of it. Just be happy, smile, and “loosen up” as he said.

As you can see, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, is an amazing classic that teaches everyone a big lesson that happiness and joy are the best way to combat evil. And as I wrote before, people who do wrong or bad things always are looking for one thing: the misery of the other person. That is why to go against that, you have to show them some cheerfulness and not give in to what they want, just like Charles Halloway and the rest of the good characters did in this book.

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