Summary and Analysis
Will and Jim march along in the Carnival parade like robots, obeying the commands of the Illustrated Man, and while he marches the boys toward the Carnival tents, he constantly tempts Jim with free rides forward on the Carnival's carousel. He sweetens the temptation by offering Jim co-partnership in the Carnival. Will, knowing how deeply Jim wants to be older, tries to prevent his friend from hearing and accepting the offers. Not wanting his plan foiled by Will's interference, the Illustrated Man threatens to send Will backward in cosmic time on the carousel, reducing him to a baby for the Dwarf to carry in the clown act.
The carousel takes on increasing significance as the one vehicle which Bradbury employs to characterize man's unhappiness with himself. In each instance, the character who rides this carousel with the intent of changing the reality of who or what he is is rewarded with misery and pain. Bradbury's message is clear: We must accept the totality of life if we are to live life fully. Any attempt at changing reality is delusion and sin. For Miss Foley, for example, this acceptance of life must also include acceptance of the reality of her old age. This refusal on her part brings her only pain and further unhappiness.