Something Wicked This Way Comes | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Something Wicked This Way Comes | Part 1, Chapters 1–2 : Arrivals | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 1

On Friday, October 23, a man selling lightning rods arrives, just ahead of a storm, in Green Town, Illinois. As he goes door to door, he comes upon two boys sitting on a lawn, whittling and talking. The boys, one blonde and one dark-haired, introduce themselves as Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. The man introduces himself as Tom Fury and tells Jim his house will be struck by lightning in the coming storm. He gives Jim a lightning rod, then leaves. Jim seems reluctant to put the lightning rod on top of the house, but Will leads him up to the roof. They hear thunder in the distance.

Part 1, Chapter 2

After nailing the lightning rod to Jim Nightshade's roof and eating supper, the boys go to the library. As they reach the library doors, Jim thinks he hears distant music. But Will Halloway doesn't hear it, so they go inside. Will's dad, Charles Halloway, is the library's janitor, and the boys talk to him a few minutes before checking out several books each and heading for home.

Analysis

The opening chapters of the story establish similarities and differences between Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway that will be important as the story unfolds. They were born minutes apart, on October 30th and 31st. So, they are almost exactly the same age. But Jim was born on Halloween, giving him a closer connection to its reputation as the time when spirits walk among the living and witches, monsters, and other frightening creatures roam. They are almost the same size and shape, but Will is light and Jim is dark. The lightning-rod salesman senses that one of the two homes will be struck by lightning in the approaching storm, but then identified Jim's as the one—establishing firmly that Jim is the one of the pair more susceptible to whatever danger is coming, and the storm is a symbol of that danger. Later, this danger is revealed to be a carnival run by the wicked Mr. Dark. So Jim will be more vulnerable to its dark attraction than Will. Both boys love to read books, but they like different books. Jim is inclined to high-energy adventures, such as "Pterodactyl, Kite of Destruction!" and "Drums of Doom: The Saga of the Thunder Lizards!" Will likes mysteries; he asks for "The Mysterious Island."

The title of the novel is a line from Shakespeare's Macbeth: "By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes." The quotation suggests wickedness is not always seen, but it may be detected by other senses. Throughout the novel, characters will not only see but hear, smell, and sense the carnival's wickedness. The motif of the senses is introduced by the lightning-rod salesman. Not only does he sense the storm coming and that it will send lightning down onto Jim's house, but also he remarks his lightning rods "hear, feel, know, and sass back any storm."

The lightning-rod salesman also draws attention to the importance of names in the novel: "Fury, ain't that a fine name for one who sells lightning rods?" Jim Nightshade has the name of a poisonous plant, reminiscent of darkness and shadow, reflecting he is the darker of the boys, while Will's last name resembles "holy way," signifying his goodness.

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