Summary and Analysis: The October Country
The Next in Line
Because of her obsession with death and dying, Marie protests when her husband Joseph takes her on a tour of the catacombs in Mexico. Joseph, however, is strangely insistent. As they view the line of standing mummies, Marie is aghast at this spectacle of death and begins to wonder what it would be like to be the next in line. This added dimension to her obsession becomes so intense that she not only begins to lose touch with reality, but she also feels herself begin to die. At first, she is unable to read her favorite magazines and, later, cannot sleep. Then she begins to notice certain changes in her body whenever she looks at herself in her "coffin-sized mirror." Finally, she feels the cogs within her slip, and her entire body begins to shake itself to bits.
Bradbury's use of sun imagery foreshadows the outcome of this study of absolute horror. The sun imagery depicts the wholeness of life, a quality now lacking where Marie is concerned, for everything reminds Marie of the mummified people standing in a queue within the catacombs. Foreshadowing begins early in the story as Marie stands in a Mexican street surrounded by shadows while the sun elsewhere shines brightly. Marie watches the sun go down in the sky, turning everything dark, and it is in the dark that she experiences the real terror of death. Finally, as Marie feels her body slowly dying, becoming like the parchment bodies of the mummies in the catacombs, she has thoughts of "bronze childhood when everything was sun on green trees and sun on water and sun on blond child hair." Joseph tells her that she will feel better when the sun shines again, but Maria's days in the sun are over. When Joseph leaves Mexico, he leaves smiling and alone.