Summary and Analysis Part I: Chapter 24


Terrified that they are responsible for Cooger's accident, Will and Jim call the police. Yet, when the policemen arrive, Cooger's body has mysteriously disappeared. A search of the Carnival reveals to the boys many of the other "freaks" in the Carnival's side show. The performers who inhabit this particular Carnival seem, at first, to be the kind that anyone might expect to find in a carnival, but closer scrutiny indicates that Bradbury has modified the names of his Carnival performers in an effort to call specific attention to the uniqueness. His Thin Man is advertised as Mr. Skeleton, and the Tattooed Man becomes the Illustrated Man. Through making his performers different from other so-called "freaks," Bradbury suggests that they each are part of the Carnival's wickedness.

When Jim, Will, and the policemen finally discover the mummified body of Mr. Cooger, Mr. Dark announces that he has created a new act in which Cooger is transformed into Mr. Electrico. Mr. Dark says that he hopes an abundance of electric current will bring Cooger back to life. However, the electrical current is not the true source of life in this case; instead, the evil performers themselves are responsible. They breathe for Mr. Electrico, helping him come alive. They inhale and exhale until Mr. Electrico's lips begin to tremble. They are successful.

This episode with Mr. Electrico is indicative of Bradbury's firm belief that evil cannot stand on its own merit alone. Evil can exist only in a situation where there is other wickedness to support it. The policemen think that they have seen a magnificent new act, but Will and Jim are beginning to realize the implications of this act and that the Carnival itself holds fatal mysteries.

Part I, then, entitled "Arrivals," first deals with the arrival of the Carnival, the "something wicked" which "this way comes." Bradbury's Carnival is the embodiment of an evil which eventually comes into the lives of all people. The sun imagery, or rather Bradbury's lack of it in this novel, further characterizes the wickedness of this Carnival, for in all of Bradbury's stories, light is good and dark is evil.

The title of Bradbury's novel is perhaps his final statement of the intent of his carnival images. Spoken by the three witches, "something wicked this way comes" is a line from Shakespeare's play Macbeth. Shakespeare's "something wicked" refers to Macbeth, who carries the seeds of his own downfall within him. This fact seems to indicate that the evil which Bradbury's carnival images depict is effective in proportion to the ability, or lack of it, that visitors to this Carnival have to withstand this evil. The policemen, for example, are entranced as they watch Mr. Electrico's act. They find the Carnival a jolly adventure. Likewise, the merry-go-round runs only against the rules of cosmic time when the "Out of Order" sign is posted. Again, Bradbury suggests that nothing at this Carnival is evil unless used for evil purposes.

The title for Part I can also refer to the weaknesses of the people who arrive at the Carnival. Already, certain weaknesses or vulnerable spots have been noted within Miss Foley and Jim. They, as well as other of the novel's characters, will have encounters with this Carnival since they, like Macbeth, bring the seeds of their own possible destruction with them.