Something Wicked This Way Comes | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Something Wicked This Way Comes | Part 2, Chapters 37–38 : Pursuits | Summary



Part 2, Chapter 37

Charles Halloway has spent the day observing the carnival. He saw the peril of the Mirror Maze but did not fall prey. Now he is in the library, researching demons, possession, witchcraft, hell, the devil, and the history of circuses. He thinks of lines from Shakespeare's Macbeth: "By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes." He hopes Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade come to the library soon.

Part 2, Chapter 38

Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway have been hiding all day in various places and now hide in the bushes outside the library. Eventually they knock on the door. Charles Halloway opens it up. He tells the boys to sit and tell him everything, and they do. They are relieved to find out Mr. Halloway believes their fantastic tale. Mr. Halloway shows the boys ads for the same carnival from 1910, 1888, 1860, and 1846—all October carnivals. He tells them of a preacher who warned against "the autumn people." Then he suggests that part of his life's purpose is to help them.


Chapter 37 reveals the Macbeth quotation upon which the title of the novel is based: "By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes." Likely as a result of his face-to-face encounter with a hostile Mr. Dark, Mr. Halloway has sensed that Mr. Dark and the carnival are wicked. To help himself explain just what kind of wickedness they represent, he has been researching all manner of evil creatures in the library. His research sources relate to different aspects of the carnival. For example, two of the references he chooses—Temptations of St. Anthony and Dr. Faustus—concern the topic of temptation. One—"a set of curious toys, humanlike robots engaged in various alchemical rites"—echoes the mechanized descriptions of the carnival freaks. One—the portrait of the Prince of Darkness—is a depiction of the devil. The damned, trains, mirrors, and the nature of the hours between midnight and dawn are all topics he has read about in order to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. In a lovely use of the clock symbolism, Mr. Halloway has arranged all these resources into the shape of a clock. Chapter 38 allows Mr. Halloway to explain the conclusions he has drawn from his day of research.

The motif of breathing is used in Chapter 38 to describe the growing connection between the town and the carnival: "Outside, the town breathed back and forth to the carnival." Like the inhaling and exhaling of the carnival freaks as they kept Mr. Cooger alive and the inhaling and exhaling of the Dust Witch in her balloon, this breathing creates a sinister mood. It suggests a dependency between carnival and townsfolk.

The symbolism of the seasons engaged by Mr. Halloway as he quotes a religious tract: "For some, autumn comes early, stays late through life where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ's birth ... September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer." Autumn people are those who are stuck in one season, rather than take part in the natural cycles of life that bring renewal.

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