Summary and Analysis: <i>The October Country</i>
Timothy's family is busily engaged in preparations for the All-hallows Eve celebration. It will be a real homecoming this year, with relatives from as far as Europe, Asia, and South America congregating at Timothy's house. Timothy's family is quite unique, for each member has been endowed not only with the gift of immortality, but also with supernatural powers. Each member, that is, but Timothy. His sister Cecy is able to fuse her mind with other people's minds, momentarily becoming the person whose mind she penetrates. His brothers Leonard and Bion are vampires, but Timothy has none of their abilities. His teeth will never be sharp enough for those of a vampire, his wings will never sprout, he dislikes the taste of blood, and he is afraid of the dark. Timothy's mortality sets him painfully apart from the rest of his supernatural family. The homecoming celebration only makes him more dejected, for it points up specifically his many shortcomings. Timothy asks Cecy's aid in helping to make himself more acceptable. At first, she is cooperative, projecting herself into him so that he can nip his sister's neck in true vampire fashion, drink an entire glass of "warm, red liquid," and fly like Uncle Einar. Soon, however, Cecy lets all the relatives know that she is responsible for Timothy's abilities. Then everyone laughs all the harder at him, intensifying his humiliation. His mother, though, does her best to console her broken-hearted son by assuring him that although he is mortal, she loves him just as he is.
"Homecoming" is another of the stories which centers around the outsider, the one who is different from the norm. Here, Timothy is an outsider in his family. He has none of the abilities of his brothers and sisters, and he lacks their approval. This rejection and dejection of Timothy sets an ideal situation for one of Bradbury's philosophical statements about the power of love. Timothy's mother encourages her mortal son by trying to convince him that he is loved in spite of his differences. She assures him that her love will continue, even beyond the limits of Timothy's own mortality. In the same vein, Bradbury uses Uncle Einar to point out that man, in realizing his mortality, should appreciate life's richness all the more.
Although a predominately serious story, "Homecoming" is not devoid of humor. Timothy's vampire brothers, who operate the local funeral parlor and bring home "sustenance" for the family, and the "one-thousand-odd-greats Grandmama," who is wrapped in Egyptian cerements and must be propped against the wall like a burned ironing board, were surely inserted by Bradbury to make us smile.
The setting of the story is one of Bradbury's favorites considering the great excitement that Halloween always generated at young Bradbury's home. His Aunt Neva hosted this holiday each year, and it was always more special than even Christmas. The fetching of toadstools and spiders, the hanging of black crepe, and the filling of the numerous punch bowls in "Homecoming" all have a parallel in the glorious Halloweens of Bradbury's youth. His use of the real names of many of his relatives in this story is sufficient evidence of his having written a fantasy steeped in reality.