Something Wicked This Way Comes | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Something Wicked This Way Comes | Part 1, Chapters 11–12 : Arrivals | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 11

The clocks chime 1, then 2, then 3 a.m. Will Halloway hears the sound of a train in the distance and sits up in bed. Jim Nightshade hears it, too, and the boys each lean out their windows to see. Through binoculars, they see a train going slowly along the tracks. Calliope music plays what sounds like church music. Jim climbs out of his window, and Will follows him outside.

Part 1, Chapter 12

Jim Nightshade runs wildly toward the train, as Will Halloway follows, thinking about Jim's recklessness and how it contrasts with his own personality. As they near the train, Jim points out the calliope is not being played by any person—just by the wind blowing through its pipes. Will, who thinks all train whistles sound forlorn and sorrowful, thinks this train's whistle sounds like "the wails of a lifetime were gathered in it." His eyes water, and he notices Jim has had a similar reaction. When the whistle screams, both boys scream along. Then the train goes silent.

The train pulls into a meadow near town. It stops and the boys hide, waiting to see what happens next. A green hot-air balloon floats above. A man in a dark suit comes out of the train caboose and gestures. People emerge silently from the train and erect the poles and wires of carnival tents. Clouds roll in, and in the darkness the boys imagine the clouds are transforming into the canvas of the tents. When the clouds blow away, the balloon and all the people are gone, but the silent tents remain. Suddenly a bird screams and the boys, spooked, run for home.


As Will thinks about Jim running ahead of him, he describes his friend as an unruly kite, its twine cut, blown along by the wind. This image suggests Jim is a little out of control (a kite separated from its spool of string). It also suggests Jim is affected by the wind, which is associated with the storm, a symbol of danger. Will's description of their contrasting personalities focuses on his more cautious and responsible approach to life and Jim's comparative impulsiveness. Will talks and plans, but Jim runs ahead without thinking. Will climbs hills, but Jim "yells off church steeples."

Wind imagery is used again as the boys realize the calliope music is a result of the wind blowing across its pipes. The carnival is the "storm" predicted by the lightning-rod salesman, and even though there is no lightning accompanying its arrival, there are both wind and clouds. The clouds even seem to form the tents of the carnival.

The description of the train's whistle relates to the theme of time's passage and uses the motifs of breath and temperature to connect the train to suffering and death. The whistle sounds as if the "wails of a lifetime were gathered in it from other nights in other slumbering years" and "their grieving sounds were lost forever between stations, not remembering where they had been, not guessing where they might go." These images suggest a feeling of being lost in the unending passage of time, or in eternity, a feeling the images in the Mirror Maze will also evoke. The motif of temperature is used to describe the scene: the calliope is played by the wind's "ice-water air," and the whistle sounds like "the seep of river-cold winds through January porch screens which stopped the blood." Both cold and exhaling breaths are used as images of death, reinforcing the carnival's dark nature.

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