Summary and Analysis Part I: Chapter 5


The right psychological moment for the arrival of the carnival is nearing, for a wind is blowing that smells ever so slightly of licorice and cotton candy, and a man moves from empty shop windows to telegraph poles, putting up carnival advertisements. As the man works, he whistles a very familiar tune:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
     And wild and sweet
     Their words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Later, he continues:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep!
     The Wrong shall fail,
     The Right prevail,
With Peace on earth, good will to men!"

A Christmas carol! A strange tune for a man to whistle as he puts up carnival posters. Yet, in spite of its strangeness, the song has a function in the novel. It is actually the embodiment of the plot structure of the entire book. Also, within the song is a second appearance of the juxtaposition of good and bad. However, this time some direction has been added to the juxtaposition because the song promises that "the Wrong shall fail."

The whistler appears to be as strange as the tune he whistles. His hand is covered with "fine black silken hair. It looked like — " Bradbury does not complete his sentence, yet this very incompletion heightens the mounting sense of mystery and fear which is to dominate the entire book.

Halloway sees the man's hand, hears the song, and shivers. Out of curiosity, he looks within one of the town's empty stores and sees two sawhorses holding up a block of ice six feet long. The ice shines dimly with its own luminosity, and its color is a light green-blue. A sign announces that the ice block contains "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World," but Halloway sees no woman lodged within the ice. Instead, all he sees is a vast chunk of empty ice. When he gazes more intently, though, Halloway thinks that he sees a vacuum within the ice — a hollow — an emptiness waiting to be filled. "Was it not shaped somewhat like a . . . woman?"

"The Most Beautiful Woman in the World" is the first of Bradbury's carnival images, and its mysterious quality sets the course for the others that are to follow. Halloway's attitude toward this woman is necessary to note here since later it should be compared to the lightning-rod salesman's attitude under similar circumstances.