Summary and Analysis: <i>The October Country</i>
When this story begins, Mr. Spallner has just been hurled through the air because of an automobile accident. He lies bleeding on the asphalt street, yet he realizes that before the police or the ambulance arrives, a crowd of gawking men, women, and children lose no time in getting to the scene of his accident. He lies gazing up at this crowd peering down at him and senses an unexplainable yet definite foreboding about them. On his way home from the hospital, his taxi passes an auto accident which has just occurred, and Spallner notices that the onlookers seem strangely familiar. When Spallner observes yet another accident, he again watches the rapidity at which the crowd gathers and, once more, recognizes many of the onlookers as being the same ones who stood over him. Through research, as well as through personal observation, he concludes that this same crowd has continually been present at accidents. But before Spallner can take this information to the police, he is involved in yet another serious accident. The same crowd closes in on him immediately, hanging over him until they seem to suck up all the air that he needs for breath. When, under the pretense of making him more comfortable, the crowd pulls him from beneath his wrecked automobile, Spallner realizes that they intend to murder him. They somehow know about evidence that he has against them. Ironically, his last words before death are an acknowledgement to the crowd that now he will be joining their ranks.
Another of Bradbury's "dark" stories about humanity, "The Crowd" has as its focal point the psychological truth that all people are attracted to and even thrive upon the pain and the problems of their fellow humans. Perhaps this story was triggered when Bradbury was writing Something Wicked This Way Comes because in that novel Charles Halloway echoes the same dark truth when he says that "man salts his life with others' sorrows." "The Crowd" ends on a tragic note as Spallner himself becomes a member of the crowd. This depicts an undeniable truth that within us there is an overwhelming power which is always enticing us to join forces with evil.