Summary and Analysis Part I: Chapters 6-14


After an adventure of peeping into a window of a house, which the boys have appropriately named "the Theater," they discover a handbill advertising the carnival's arrival. Some early, yet definite, inconsistencies surrounding the carnival's arrival immediately become apparent. First, consider the element of time. This particular carnival opens on October twenty-fourth, but all carnivals traditionally end their season immediately after Labor Day. Also, Will and Jim hear calliope music at night even though all carnivals usually reach their destination at early dawn. Then, it is at exactly three o'clock in the morning that Bradbury selects for the arrival of his carnival, and Halloway comments on this hour, describing it as being the time when the body is at "low tide" and "the soul is out." "You're the nearest to dead you'll ever be save dying," he says. "Three A.M. is living death," Halloway concludes, realizing that this carnival is different from all the others; it has arrived at "an hour of despair."

Through Halloway, Bradbury begins to point out more specifically the direction which his carnival images are taking: The carnival does, indeed, come at the most vulnerable time in the lives of many of the people who live in Green Town.

After sneaking out at night to watch the men unload and set up the carnival equipment, Will and Jim notice certain other peculiarities of this carnival. The carnival train is unlike any other that the boys have ever seen. It is a "funeral train" with "all black plumed cars . . . and licorice-colored cages." Also, the parallel between the storm and the carnival appears again when Bradbury describes the carnival train as having rushed like a "black stampede of storm waves on the shore out beyond." Even the train's whistle is an awesome thing to hear: "Wails of a lifetime" are collected in its sound, "a thousand fire sirens weeping . . . protests of a billion people dead or dying, not wanting to be dead, their groans, their sighs, burst over the earth!" With Bradbury's use of terms associated with grief, trouble, and tragedy, there can be no doubt that this is a different kind of carnival train. When the train's "funeral bell" stops, all action ceases, and the carnival train "crouches" in an eerie stillness as if ready to spring at a moment's notice.

Bradbury describes the carnival tent as having "skeleton" poles that are waiting for its canvas "skin." Implications that the warp and woof of this carnival are somehow human are strong here. The gradual unfolding of this weird carnival occurs in deep shadows, illuminated by only the light of the moon. This scene is described in terms of silhouettes, and the black-white contrast reinforces the carnival's eeriness.

In addition to the description of the carnival's arrival, these chapters present more insight into the personality of Charles Halloway. Halloway prizes his job at the library because he has availability to all of the books that gave him pleasure not only in youth but also in maturity. In the library, he finds joy. However, once Halloway goes home, his age becomes a great deterrent to the kind of things he wants to do. For example, he is dissatisfied with his age. He thinks that he is an old man because he was forty years old when Will was born. He believes that fathers should play baseball and run with their sons, but Halloway's age limits this kind of activity. People even mistake his wife for his daughter. Halloway can't seem to quell the desire to be the boy he once was, the boy who ran "like the leaves down the sidewalk autumn nights." Halloway's yearning to be young is his tragic flaw, and the carnival will work upon it, almost causing Halloway's undoing.

Finally, this section gives the reader another view of "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World," this time through the eyes of the lightning-rod salesman. Unlike Halloway, he opens the shop door and steps in to face the ice. Bradbury describes this ice as being like an arctic coffin. These words accurately picture that ice which does or does not contain the world's most beautiful woman. Ironically, however, the words also characterize the lightning-rod salesman and the death in life that is later to be his fate. He sees the woman whom Halloway cannot see, and his desire to possess her increases. His willful attempt to melt the ice and own what is not his to enjoy cannot go unpunished. Consequently, he later reappears in the story as one of the freaks at the carnival. Once again, the juxtaposition of good and evil appears. Two different characters react to the same object in two separate ways. One goes free; the other is punished.