Something Wicked This Way Comes | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Course Hero. "Something Wicked This Way Comes Study Guide." Course Hero. 25 Oct. 2017. Web. 17 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Something-Wicked-This-Way-Comes/>.

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Course Hero. "Something Wicked This Way Comes Study Guide." October 25, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Something-Wicked-This-Way-Comes/.

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Course Hero, "Something Wicked This Way Comes Study Guide," October 25, 2017, accessed July 17, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Something-Wicked-This-Way-Comes/.

Something Wicked This Way Comes | Plot Summary

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Summary

Part 1: Arrivals

The novel begins on Friday, October 23. A man arrives in Green Town, selling lightning rods. He comes to the homes of Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, two boys nearing age 14 who are next-door neighbors and best friends. He tells them a dangerous storm is coming, gives a lightning rod to Jim to install on his roof, and leaves. After nailing the rod to Jim's roof, the boys go to the library, where Will's father, Charles Halloway, works. On the way home they find a carnival handbill blowing in the wind—Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show. At 3 a.m. the carnival train arrives, and in the morning it is ready for visitors.

Will and Jim go to the carnival. There, they meet up with Miss Foley, their schoolteacher, who intends to try out the Mirror Maze. However, she runs into trouble in the maze and has to be pulled out by Jim and Will. Somewhat dazed, Miss Foley tells them she saw a young girl who resembled herself as a child in the maze, trapped as if under water. Later that evening, Jim also enters the maze and must be rescued by Will. They also see an out-of-order carousel and meet Mr. Dark, one of the carnival's owners. Mr. Dark is also known as the Illustrated Man because he is covered in tattoos.

The boys decide to spy on the carnival. Watching from a nearby tree, they see a man—Mr. Cooger—ride the carousel backward. As he rotates, he becomes younger. When he is a young boy, he jumps off and runs away. Will and Jim follow after him. They learn that he is staying at Miss Foley's house and pretending to be her nephew, whom she was expecting for a visit.

Later that night, Jim sneaks back to Miss Foley's house, intending to get the boy to let him ride the carousel forward so he can age a few years and gain more independence. Will secretly follows, planning to make Jim change his mind. The young Mr. Cooger comes outside and throws some of Miss Foley's jewelry at the boys, intending to frame them as burglars. When the boy runs back to the carnival, Will and Jim chase him—right on to the carousel. The carousel begins to rotate forward, and because of a malfunction of the switch box, it moves forward so quickly Mr. Cooger becomes a very old man who is near death. The boys, concerned that the carnival owners will be angry with them for making such trouble, call the police. The police arrive, but Mr. Dark tells a tall tale about a new act, called Mr. Electrico, in which a man is animated by electricity. Mr. Electrico, in fact, is Mr. Cooger.

Part 2: Pursuits

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade go to their homes. Later that night, Will wakes up and remembers the lightning rod. He looks out, but sees that Jim has taken it down. Then Jim looks out his window, and together they watch as one of the carnival folk—the Dust Witch—floats in a hot-air balloon over Jim's house. The balloon lowers and leaves a shining white trail of slime on Jim's roof. The boys realize she has marked the house so the carnival folk can easily find them, so they use a hose to wash it off after she has gone. Jim goes to bed, but Will follows the Dust Witch and uses an archery set to make a smile-shaped hole in her balloon. The smile forces her to retreat.

The next day at dawn, Miss Foley goes to the carnival. Later that morning, Will and Jim meet a young girl who is crying and asking for help. They realize Miss Foley has ridden the carousel backward. Before they can help her, she disappears.

The carnival searches for the boys under the pretense of forming a parade through town. The boys hide under a sidewalk grate and are almost discovered several times, but manage to remain hidden even as Mr. Dark and the Dust Witch pressure Will's dad, Charles Halloway, to reveal their hiding place. Over the next several hours, they switch hiding places in efforts to elude the searching carnival freaks. Meanwhile, Mr. Halloway goes to the library and does some research. He learns that the carnival has been to town before, several times, over more than a century. He speculates that the carnival feeds on the misery and fear of people in the town and recruits new carnival folk by causing people to give in to temptation, allowing their sins to be reflected in their physical bodies. When Jim and Will join him at the library that evening, he explains his theory to them.

Suddenly Mr. Dark arrives at the library, looking for the boys, and Will and Jim run to hide. Eventually, however, he finds them and drags them outside, where the Dust Witch puts a spell on them. Mr. Dark marches them obediently away, while the Dust Witch goes inside to kill Mr. Halloway. She is unsuccessful because Mr. Halloway, facing death, suddenly realizes how silly everything is—life, death, the situation, the Dust Witch. His smile and laughter chases her off, just as the smile shape in the punctured balloon did.

Part 3: Departures

Mr. Dark and his freaks march Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade toward the carnival. The Dust Witch follows, and Charles Halloway follows the Dust Witch. At the carnival, Mr. Dark hides the enchanted Jim and Will in the Waxworks at the end of the Mirror Maze, among the wax figures. Then he announces a final act of the night to the carnival-goers—the bullet trick. Mr. Halloway volunteers to fire a rifle at the Dust Witch, who is supposed to catch it in her mouth. He calls his son out of the Mirror Maze to be his assistant. The trick involves a fake bullet made of crayon. Mr. Halloway knows the trick, but he inscribes his smile on the bullet and fires it at the witch. She falls to the ground, dead, and Mr. Halloway and Will run to the Mirror Maze to rescue Jim. Inside the maze, Mr. Halloway is overwhelmed by images of his own old age until Will tells him he loves him. Then Mr. Halloway finally accepts his life and mortality and laughs aloud. The Mirror Maze shatters. Will and his dad run to the carousel, where Mr. Cooger as Mr. Electrico has just disintegrated into dust and Jim is attempting to get on the carousel. Jim is able to ride around a time or two, dragging Will along for the last bit. Mr. Halloway flips the switch, the ride stops, and Jim collapses to the ground.

While Will tries to resuscitate Jim, a young boy asks Mr. Halloway for help. But Mr. Halloway realizes that the boy is a young, disguised Mr. Dark. Knowing love will vanquish evilness, Mr. Halloway hugs the boy until the boy falls down dead. The tattoos on the boy's skin fade away, and the carnival freaks, thus set free, dismantle the carnival and walk away. Mr. Halloway realizes the only thing that can save Jim is dancing, singing, and laughing. The Halloways engage in this with enthusiasm, and Jim recovers. Then, after thinking one last time about what the carousel might do for them, they wreck the magical ride. The two boys decide to race to the railroad crossing, and after a moment of hesitation and worry about his aging heart, Mr. Halloway joins in. After the race, the three walk back into town together.

Something Wicked This Way Comes Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction

Introduction

1 A lightning-rod salesman brings warning of a coming storm.

Rising Action

2 The carnival arrives in town.

3 Townsfolk visit the carnival; some disappear.

4 Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway see the carousel's magic.

5 The carnival parades through town, looking for Jim and Will.

6 Mr. Dark finds Will and Jim at the library and abducts them.

7 Charles Halloway is nearly killed by the Dust Witch.

8 The Dust Witch is killed and the Mirror Maze smashed.

Climax

9 Jim decides to ride the carousel, but Will pulls him off.

Falling Action

10 Charles Halloway kills Mr. Dark.

11 Will and Charles Halloway revive Jim with laughter and song.

Resolution

12 Jim, Will, and Charles Halloway run home.

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