Something Wicked This Way Comes | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Something Wicked This Way Comes | Part 3, Chapters 53–54 : Departures | Summary

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Summary

Part 3, Chapter 53

With Mr. Dark dead, the freaks emerge from the shadows and begin to circle around. Charles Halloway watches as the illustrations—which are of the freaks—vanish from the dead boy's skin. The freaks break down the carnival tents and begin to walk away. The Skeleton picks up the body of Mr. Dark and carries it, following after the rest. They disappear from sight. Will Halloway watches, then turns back to Jim Nightshade, who has gone cold.

Part 3, Chapter 54

In order to save Jim Nightshade, Charles Halloway says, they must laugh and sing and smile. Despite his concern for his friend, Will Halloway sings as his dad plays harmonica, and they both dance wildly. The two begin to laugh at the silliness of the situation. "Death's funny, God damn it!" yells Mr. Halloway. Their cavorting brings Jim back, and the Halloways take Jim's hands and pull him into the dance.

As they prepare to leave, each feels a final temptation to ride the carousel, either forward or backward. But each realizes this would turn him into "proprietor for some small part of eternity of the traveling dark carnival shows." Mr. Halloway takes a wrench and destroys the carousel's control box. All at once they hear the town clocks strike midnight. Jim and Will decide to race to the railroad tracks and take off. Mr. Halloway, after a hesitation because of the vague pain in his chest, runs after them. They reach the railroad at the same instant and walk together into town.

Analysis

Like the death of the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) (a book beloved of Bradbury) Mr. Dark's death sets the captive carnival freaks free. As their likenesses disappear eerily from the skin of his (now young) body, those ensnared are, presumably, able to move on their own. The novel gives us a visceral, nightmarish look at what exactly those illustrations showed: "the vital stuffs of their mortal greed, rancor, and poisonous guilt, the emerald abstracts of their self-blinded eyes, self-wounded mouths, self-trapped bodies." These terrible pictures—depictions of the sins that had ensnared them—"melted one by one from this insignificant mound of snow." As to the ultimate fate of the carnival folk, the novel is not clear. They seem to disappear over a hill. Perhaps they disappear altogether, like the clouds that came to form the tents of the carnival.

Despite the fact that the tempter, Mr. Dark, has died, the three protagonists feel a final temptation as they prepare to leave the carnival behind. This suggests that ultimately temptation and self-destruction are a direct result of the dissatisfaction within a person. The fact they resist this temptation shows that they have learned important lessons from their encounter with evil.

In the final, joyful scene of the novel, Mr. Halloway decides to complete his journey from fear to fearlessness. He has faced his own death and decided to accept it. As he chooses to run ahead with the boys rather than worry about his aging heart, he thinks "Is Death important? No. Everything that happens before Death is what counts."

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