Summary and Analysis Part III: Chapters 53-54


Curiosity causes the freaks slowly to emerge from their tents of darkness and observe the Halloways as they work to return Jim to life. Then, as if each one hears a signal, the freaks stampede in every direction. Almost simultaneously, the Carnival's tents begin to fall. Their falling is described as being a kind of death all of its own. The Main Freak Tent has a "fatal respiration," and it begins to "convulse" and "part bones" as it "sheds its skin."

By this time, Will is convinced that Jim is dead and begins to weep. Mr. Halloway sharply reprimands him, reminding Will that if he wants to save Jim, crying is not the way to do it. He tells Will that the evil forces love tears. He and Will must appear happy if Jim is to survive. They must whoop and holler and dance and sing, but most of all, they must laugh. Together, father and son dance, shuffle, stomp, and twirl, all the while sending forth loud guffaws of laughter. Through this display of the joy and the love of being alive, Jim regains his consciousness. Then he, too, joins in the laughter.

Mr. Halloway reminds the boys that the victory is theirs today but that the autumn people will make their presence known again, and not necessarily in the form of a carnival. He further warns the boys always to be on the watch for the autumn people because the battle is never finally won. They might already be on the road.

The admonition that the autumn people already may be planning a new attack has an ominous ring to it, but the boys soon realize what Mr. Halloway means. Before they can even leave the Carnival grounds, they are tempted again, and this temptation comes as they pass the carousel for the final time. Both Jim and Will entertain the thought of making just one last ride forward on one of the carousel's bright and shining horses. Mr. Halloway dreams of riding ten revolutions backward into his younger and seemingly happier days. Each somehow knows the others' thoughts.

Mr. Halloway believes that man carries within him the potential for evil as well as good, and he knows that man can be moral, and that he can walk in the light if he so desires. Consequently, Halloway decides to destroy forever the control box of the carousel and the temptations that it offered. This night, at least, he and the boys have chosen to make manifest their goodness. They turn toward town with happiness in their hearts.

Bradbury's carnival imagery in Something Wicked This Way Comes first characterizes not only the joyous reality of the good that exists within every member of the human race, but also the potential for evil that simultaneously lies there. This, his most didactic novel, then takes this philosophical discussion ever further. Here Bradbury emphasizes that we must not hide from the knowledge of the reality of both good and evil because evil will never be dealt with effectively until we are willing to admit that it exists in the world as a part of the very fabric of life.

Only after we have faced this truth does Bradbury believe that we can make wise choices that will enable us to shun evil and seek only that which is good, true, and beautiful.