Something Wicked This Way Comes | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Something Wicked This Way Comes | Part 1, Chapters 17–18 : Arrivals | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 17

The leather bag is Tom Fury's, the lightning-rod salesman. Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway note that the storm he predicted never arrived. They speculate about what would make a man forget his livelihood and leave everything behind. Jim says this "something" must have been important. He suggests entering the carnival while everyone else goes home for dinner to find the answer.

Part 1, Chapter 18

The boys go to the carousel, on which is an out-of-order sign. Jim Nightshade, curious, jumps up on the ride, but a red-haired man appears and pulls him off, saying the ride is out of order. Another man appears and introduces himself as "Dark" and his companion as Mr. Cooger, of "Cooger and Dark's" carnival. The boys get a glimpse of Mr. Dark's arm, which has a number of tattoos. Jim deduces he is the Illustrated Man listed on the handbill. As the man brandishes his illustrations, Jim seems entranced. Mr. Dark asks his name, and Jim gives a fake one; Dark is not fooled. As the Illustrated Man covers his tattoos again, he gives Jim a coupon for a free ride on the carousel.

The boys run off and climb a tree to keep spying on the carnival. Will Halloway asks Jim what the pictures on Mr. Dark's arm showed him, but Jim doesn't want to say. Below, the two men—Cooger and Dark—manage to get the ride moving, but it turns backward. Cooger rides the backward-moving carousel. As the wheel turns back 28 times, the man grows younger and younger, until he is a boy of 12. Will and Jim follow as the boy runs off.


These chapters include important plot points, such as the disappearance of the lightning-rod salesman, the identification of Mr. Dark as the Illustrated Man, and the transformation of Mr. Cooger into a young boy. These details are clues into the nature of the carnival, and as the novel progresses each will take on greater importance: The lightning-rod salesman will be transformed into the Dwarf, a carnival freak. The illustrations on the Illustrated Man will be shown to be the method by which Mr. Dark keeps the carnival freaks in thrall. The young Mr. Cooger will be the means by which Miss Foley is ensnared by the carnival.

Jim's impetuous nature is a point of emphasis in these chapters as it becomes clear his curiosity about the carnival is growing and becoming risky. Jim jumps on the carnival impulsively, a foreshadowing of events to come. Mr. Dark also takes a special interest in Jim. Jim's reaction to the Illustrated Man's tattoos is similar to his reaction to the Mirror Maze: he is excited yet unwilling to share what he saw with Will. The carousel's ability to make a person younger implies it has the opposite power, which is likely quite appealing to Jim.

Readers are aware that Jim is more anxious than Will to grow up, but the novel does not give many specifics about the exact aspects of adulthood that are so appealing to him. Independence is certainly one. Sex may be another: This is the implication of Jim's speculation that "something important" made the lightning-rod seller forget everything. Readers know the lightning seller's interest in "the most beautiful woman in the world" made him forget everything and will later see how this becomes physical reality as the man becomes the mad Dwarf. Thinking about what this "something important" might be makes Jim breathe "soft fire," a temperature reference connected with lust or longing.

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