Something Wicked This Way Comes | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Something Wicked This Way Comes | Part 1, Chapters 23–24 : Arrivals | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 23

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade run after the escaping Mr. Cooger. Will assumes Cooger will try to ride the carousel a few times to gain an advantage of size on the two boys. When they reach the ride, Cooger is already on it. Jim begins to jump on the ride, but Will tackles him, and then tries to turn it off. The boys fight over the controls. The switch box malfunctions, and the carousel begins to move around at a terribly fast pace. Will holds Jim down as the ride goes quickly around 50, 70, 90 times. When Cooger finally gets off, he has aged beyond belief; he is mummified and cold to the touch but, strangely, still alive. Will vomits. Both boys flee.

Part 1, Chapter 24

The boys call the police and an ambulance. They are worried Mr. Cooger will seek revenge. They lead the paramedics and police officers to the carousel, but Mr. Cooger is nowhere to be found. They enter the Freak Tent, filled with more than 30 carnival freaks. Will Halloway thinks the Dwarf looks familiar (later in the chapter he realizes the Dwarf is the Tom Fury, the lightning-rod salesman, now deformed). Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man, is giving himself a new tattoo on the palm of his left hand. Will sees Mr. Cooger sitting in an Electric Chair and cries out. They move toward the man, passing the Dust Witch with her sewn-shut eyes.

Mr. Dark greets them and introduces the man in the Electric Chair as Mr. Electrico. He is in a trance, Mr. Dark says, and will now be lit up with "one hundred thousand volts! Yet he will come forth alive, whole in sound mind and body!" He throws the switch and Mr. Electrico is drenched in electricity, which seems to bring him to life. Mr. Dark and the carnival freaks pretend this is part of a new act, and the adults are convinced. Mr. Dark offers the boys tickets for free rides and asks their names, and they reply with fake names. The police officers take the terrified boys home.


The dark power of the carousel takes on a more terrifying dimension as the boys watch Mr. Cooger age beyond the tolerance of a human body before their eyes. The only way Mr. Cooger can stay alive is by becoming hooked up to a machine that pumps him full of electricity. This is one example of an interesting choice Bradbury makes in describing the freaks: They are often described in mechanical terms. The Dwarf's eyes "snapped on." The Crusher is made of "steel and iron." The Dust Witch is a wax figure whose motion is caused by cogs and machinery.

The Illustrated Man's tattoos are revealed to be connected to the carnival freaks. When he moves, his illustrations seem to draw the freaks along. This causes the reader to wonder just what he was tattooing on his palm when the boys, police, and paramedics first entered.

The motif of temperature surfaces in the description of Mr. Cooger's body: "cold mouth and cold eyes locked up in frozen eyelids." The boys look for signs of life, but see none: "Inside the frozen nostrils not a white hair stirred ... his teeth under his clay lips were dry-ice cold." In these descriptions Bradbury connects cold to death. Conversely, heat relates to life. The electricity brings Mr. Cooger back to life as his body "blazed like a blue autumn tree."

The final chapters of Part 1 increase the peril of the story, as it is clear the boys have become a threat to the carnival. Before, the carnival exerted its dark attraction on Jim as a matter of course—as it exerted its attraction on any human who seems susceptible. Now, things have changed and the carnival has reason to take a more specific interest in the boys. They have interfered with Mr. Cooger's plan for Miss Foley and have seen the power of the carousel. They have now endangered Mr. Cooger's life and brought police into the domain of Mr. Dark. In Part 2, the story will show how the carnival plans to take revenge.

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