Summary and Analysis: The October Country
Mr. Bigelow is a dwarf who works for a carnival. Each night after the customers have gone, he visits the Mirror Maze, where he stands before one mirror in particular, one that magnifies his image many, many times. Here he struts, pirouettes, and does a clumsy dance. He likes what he sees. Ralph Banghart, the ticket salesman at the Mirror Maze, watches this nightly ritual through a peephole, finding it a terribly funny joke. Ralph's girlfriend, Aimee, also watches Bigelow, but she empathizes with the dwarf. She wants to help him find dignity and purpose in life. Ralph, though, has another plan in mind for Bigelow. Within the Mirror Maze he repositions his mirrors, inserting one that reduces a man's size. Bigelow is unaware of the change as he makes his nightly visit to the Maze, although he soon makes the discovery. Having viewed himself as even smaller than he is in reality, he shrieks hysterically and runs away in search of a weapon with which to take his life. All the while, Ralph sits looking, laughing, and slapping his thighs. Later, when Ralph leaves the carnival, he glimpses himself in the mirrors. He sees facing him in the mirror the image of "a horrid, ugly little man two feet high, with a pale, squashed face."
Bradbury employs symbolism in regard to his characters' names in this story. Characteristically, Mr. Bigelow is "big." He has high aspirations for himself as a writer. However, he is also "low" in his estimation of himself, as well as low in stature since he is a dwarf.
Aimee is also accurately characterized by her name. She is kind and compassionate towards Bigelow.
Mirror imagery best depicts the true nature of Ralph. At first, the mirrors depict "ten thousand cold white images of him stalking down the glassy corridors." Ralph is hard, cold, unfeeling, and does "stalk" Bigelow in the same way that one would stalk an animal. Moreover, the mirror does not lie when it depicts Ralph as a small man; the mirror pictures Ralph as he inwardly is: small, petty, ugly, and cruel.
Bradbury's sympathetic understanding of humanity makes him aware that humanity often experiences feelings of dissatisfaction, inadequacy, and sometimes even total disgust when forced to take a look at itself. He also feels that this dissatisfaction is the origin of man's desire to indulge in fantasy, to want to escape his real self, to want to be what he knows he never can be. Because of Bradbury's great interest in humanity, his stories often investigate these universal feelings that man has about himself. His use of mirror imagery depicts this theme of man's dissatisfaction. In "The Dwarf," Bigelow finds joy in the fantasy of the mirrors; Ralph Banghart sees in them reality. They reflect him as the despicable man that he really is.