Something Wicked This Way Comes | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Something Wicked This Way Comes | Part 1, Chapters 3–4 : Arrivals | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 3

Charles Halloway watches the boys run away from the library as he closes up. He thinks about the differences between the two boys—how Will Halloway is like "the last peach, high on a summer tree," that is, good and unsuspecting of the dangers of life, while Jim Nightshade "licks the wound he expected, and never asks why." On his way home, he stops by the corner saloon for a drink, as he does each night. A man inside the saloon is telling the bartender about the invention of liquor. He asks Mr. Halloway if he wants a drink. Halloway answers "I don't need it ... But someone inside me does." "Who?" the man asks. "The boy I once was," Halloway thinks to himself, as he has his drink.

Part 1, Chapter 4

As the clock on the courthouse strikes nine, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade move through the town. Adults of the town close up their businesses and start home. The storm is coming, and the wind is blowing. As the boys pass the United Cigar Store, Mr. Tetley, its proprietor, greets them. Then the man stops and listens, as if he can hear something far away on the wind. They pass Mr. Crosetti, the barber, as he locks up his shop. The man has a tear on his cheek and asks them "Don't you smell it?" The boys smell licorice and cotton candy, and these smells seem to remind him of childhood. Will asks Mr. Crosetti to leave his barber pole on, and the barber agrees.


These chapters continue to differentiate Jim and Will. Charles Halloway observes, "Will runs because running is its own excuse. Jim runs because something's up ahead of him. Yet, strangely, they do run together." So Will is content to be in the moment, enjoying the experience of being a boy, while Jim is looking ahead, rushing toward something that is in the future. This introduces the theme dissatisfaction versus acceptance: Will accepts what is, while Jim is dissatisfied and wants something more. Mr. Halloway's observations continue to characterize the differences between the boys. He compares Will to a peach on a summer tree, tying Will firmly to summer—the season symbolic of goodness and innocence in the novel.

Mr. Halloway also develops the theme of growing up and growing old as he watches the two boys run. He has a sudden urge to run with them—an idea revisited at the end of the novel—and thinks about the nature of growing up. The wind, an agent of change and danger because of its association with the storm, is said to be pushing the boys along. Halloway "knew what the wind was doing to them, where it was taking them, to all the secret places that were never so secret again in life." They are on the cusp of growing up, a process that exposes them to new dangers. This makes Mr. Halloway think of growing old: "Somewhere in him, a shadow turned mournfully over." Later, when he visits the saloon, he has a drink for this shadow inside himself: the boy he once was. A saloon customer explains that alcohol was once thought to be the "Elixir of Life."

The motif of the senses surfaces as the townsfolk get their first whiff of the coming carnival. Nostalgic smells of cotton candy and licorice fill the air. The symbols of time and eternity, clocks and the continuously spiraling barber pole, also make an appearance, supporting the theme of time's passage.

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