Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October Read-Along: "Something Wicked This Way Comes" Chapters 1-5

     So, I am starting a day later than anticipated (as usual) but here is the first post in my month of Halloween celebration/activities!  This is also the first post in our October Read-Along (of which there will be a new post every two or three days), which this year is Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.  In this post we're going to briefly discuss the first five chapters, which only amounts to about 27 pages in the edition that I'm reading.  We'll also talk about a little of the symbolism, themes, etc. that we've seen so far in the book.  So, without further adieu, here the discussion begins!

Prologue and Chapter 1

In the prologue, Bradbury tells us in a very prosy, nostalgic way that it's October and it's one of the best months for boys.  He also tells us who the main protagonists are, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, and their exact ages (which we assume will come into play later in the novel).  In Chapter One we start out with a travelling salesman who sells lightning rods.  He comes upon the boys laying out on the lawn in front of one of their houses.  We are introduced to Will (blond and fair) and Jim (dark), who also introduce themselves with the fact of being born just a minute apart.  They are neighbors and the rod salesman gives them a lightning rod, telling them it's going to strike Jim's house and they need the rod.  Jim is skeptical, but as soon as the salesman leaves Will sets about getting ready to put the rod on the roof.  The chapter ends with the feeling that a storm is coming.

Thoughts:  Through the prologue and the first chapter, it's pretty obvious that something important is on the verge of happening to these boys.  Bradbury makes a really obvious play of the contrast between them.  Will is obviously light and Jim is his dark foil.  They are two sides of the same coin.

Chapter 2

This chapter sees both boys heading over to the library for their weekly visit.  As they're about to go in, Jim hears music in the distance.  Will doesn't, so they head into the library.  We get a really beautiful description of how the library is really a portal to other places, and we also get an introduction to the fact that Will's Dad is a librarian.  Will feels so far removed from him, and feels like his Dad is a sad, ancient figure.  He actually makes this comparison,

     "Dad winked at Will.  Will winked back.  They stood now, a boy with corn-colored hair and a
       man with moon-white hair, a boy with a summer-apple, a man with a winter-apple face.  Dad,
       Dad, thought Will, why, why, he me in a smashed mirror!"

Will's Dad jokes around with Jim about "Heck" not being a place, but Hell being under "A" for Alighieri.  Then he makes some remarks about Jim getting the "black hat" books and Will getting the "white hat" ones.  Jim asks what he means and Will's Dad answers evasively that he decided what color to wear long ago.  He sends both of them on their way, Jim with dinosaurs and Will with Jules Verne, and Jim says he's going to watch for the lightning.  Will tells him it will come by morning.

Thoughts:  It's interesting to see Will's Dad draw comparisons between Will and Jim, just like the salesman did (albeit more vaguely).  He pretty much hints that Jim is teetering on evil and Will is on the flipside of things, the good side.  Probably the first actual full description that really explains the terms "white hat" and "black hat" without lots of detail, but zero confusion.  The examples he draws tells you what each one means.

Chapter 3

This chapter is just a few pages and centers around Charles Halloway, Will's Dad, and his insights/feelings about the two boys.  We get to see inside his head and realize that he wants nothing more than to be able to run with Will and Jim again, but knows he can't.  Near the end of the chapter he thinks he will "someday catch up" with them.  He thinks over the differences between Will and Jim.  He realizes that Jim is always waiting for the next blow from life to come at him and is always dodging it, never asking why because he already knows.  Will is the type who stops and asks "Why?" each time he's hit and has to bandage things up.  It ends with Charles in the bar, getting a drink and trying to hear things long past.

Thoughts:  I had forgotten that Bradbury gives us the insights of Will's Dad, as well as both the boys.  I liked getting the adult perspective directly following the third person that followed the boys.  It was cool to see the different contrasts he made between the boys and his wistful feelings toward his own youth.  My favorite line though was this:

     "Jim, Will, he thought, strangers.  Go on.  I'll catch up, some day...."

Also, this one, '"Have a drink?"  "I don't need it," said Halloway.  "But someone inside me does."  "Who?"  The boy I once was, thought Halloway, who runs like the leaves down the sidewalk autumn nights."

Chapters 4 & 5

Everyone in town is hurrying indoors, because they can feel the storm coming.  But Jim and Will catch Mr. Crosetti, the barber, crying outside his shop.  He smells licorice & cotton candy on the air and it's made him realize that he hasn't really stopped to think or smell the air in the 30 years since he was a boy.  The three make the connection that only circuses and carnivals sell cotton candy.  Will has him leave the barber pole going, comforted that it will be running through the night.  Both boys hurry home.  Meanwhile, Charles Halloway is leaving the saloon and sees a man in a dark suit across the street, whistling a tune.  He's putting up posters for a show, "Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show - Fantoccinni, Marionette Circus and Your Plain Meadow Carnival.  Arriving Immediately."  The man has put one of these posters in a abandoned storefront, along with a block of ice and a caveat that the most beautiful woman in the world is in there.  He stands there staring at the block of ice and the woman in it, transfixed by the cold, even while wanting to draw away from it.

Thoughts:  The smell of cotton candy and licorice are foreshadowing for a carnival coming to town, which is later confirmed by the man putting up the posters.  The differing reactions of Mr. Crosetti, who is visibly unsettled and Charles, who is unable to give the reaction he wants by following his instincts, and is stuck standing there letting something happen to him.  Also the whole "Most Beautiful Woman in the World" stuck in a block of ice thing doesn't exactly bode well for the intent of the circus - and the fact that they're arriving amidst a storm.

Next Assigment:  Chapters 6-13, Pages 28-57

Please feel free to open up a discussion in the comments, I'd love to talk about this one with you guys! :)  Until next time, have a Happy October!


  1. I haven't read this before, and I'm enjoying it. The dichotomy of the sadness and nostalgia the adults feel vs. the excitement of the two boys who are on the verge of adulthood is interesting. My favorite quote is from Will's dad's musings: "God, how we get our fingers in each other's clay. That's friendship, each playing the potter to see what shapes we can make of the other." p.18. Bradbury has a way with words.

    1. That is a great quote! I had forgotten how much descriptive prose Bradbury uses in this novel. And now as someone who's older, I am more intrigued by Will's Dad than either of the boys. Glad you're enjoying it! :)


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