I had hoped to do a second post last week, but work got in the way of that (retail 40 hours a week is exhausting,especially as we start creeping up on major holidays). So here is the second post for our October Read-Along, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. In this one we're going to discuss chapters six through thirteen, which is about thirty pages in the edition that I'm reading. We'll also talk a little about the symbolism, themes, etc. that we've seen so far in the book. So, without further adieu, here the discussion begins!
Chapters 6 & 7
Will and Jim are walking home from the library. Jim wants to go home down Hickory Street, but Will is fighting him on it. We find out that the boys used to climb the fruit trees on that street when they were younger, and pick peaches, plums, & apricots. Now Jim wants to go down that street to possibly peek into the Theater though, because he and Will happened to accidentally witness what is described as some sort of orgy there when they peered in the window once. Will refuses and thinks back on the wrongness of the feeling watching them gave him. Jim hands off his library books, running down the street and calling Will a "darn old dimwit Episcopal Baptist!" In the next chapter, Will is halfway home when Jim catches up with him. Turns out no one was home and this makes Will happy. A flier for Cooger and Dark's Carnival is blowing past and they pick it up. Jim is enchanted by all the different sideshows and acts that it lists, while Will (ever practical) doubts the truth of it, saying there are never carnivals after Labor Day. They argue about whether or not they'd go and ponder if the carnival is already there, because of the night's earlier smells. Will has to reassure Jim several times that he isn't mad at him, while Jim swears to avoid the theater. The chapter ends with Will musing that he's glad for the lightning rod on Jim's roof, whether the storm comes tonight or not.
Thoughts: Bradbury takes all of six pages for everything above to happen, but the descriptive prose makes it so rich in such a short amount of time! My favorite contrast between the boys in this one is Will being focused on the innocent past times of Hickory Street, while Jim wants the forbidden pleasures. Also, when the flier is blowing past them it gets stuck to Jim's leg, and Will is the one lets it go again. Plus the insults directed at Will about being a Baptist and Jim name-calling him as a preacher only serve to widen the gap even further between the two. Favorite quote in this one:
"Until this summer it had been an ordinary street where they stole peaches, plums and apricots, each in its day. But late in August, when they were monkey-climbing for the sourest apples, the 'thing' happened which changed the houses, the taste of the fruit, and the very air within the gossiping trees."
Will goes inside his house, deciding its familiar stage is the only theater he wants. His Dad is reading and his Mom is knitting in front of the fire. Will muses on how he feels about his parents, and the way they fit into the world as a whole. His feelings:
"He wanted to be near them, and not near them, he saw them close, he saw them far. Suddenly they were awfully small in too large a room in too big a town and much too huge a world. In this unlocked place they seemed at the mercy of anything that might break in from the night. Including me, Will thought. Including me. Suddenly he loved them more for their smallness than he ever had when they seemed tall."
Will realizes that his Mother is happy, a hothouse rose, while his Father is the janitor, sad. He wonders how they fit together. He notices the same flier he and Jim found crumpled in his Father's hand. When Will says hello his Mother lights up and his Dad hides the flier. He makes a joke about the library Lion hunting for Christians and how he has the only decent one in captivity (Will's Mother). Will hears his Dad throwing the paper in the fire as he goes upstairs. Will is laying awake, listening to his parents speak. He stays awake to hear his Father speak, entranced by the truths of life he sets free with his words. Will's Dad is speaking about how old he feels, but skirts around speaking of the carnival. He gets scared, because for once his Father's not speaking truths. He crawls under the covers denying the carnival, opening a book. It turns out to be Jim's dinosaur book. Just before sleeps he hears his Father leave again, his Mother never knowing.
Thoughts: This chapter is all about the differences between Father and son. It's pretty much a companion chapter to Chapter Three, where we get an inside view into the thoughts and feelings of Will's Father. Except this time it's Will's thoughts and feelings. Seeing the way he views his parents with love, respect, and even a little bit of fear is definitely intriguing. Also, Will's devotion to his Father's honesty and his fear at the dishonesty regarding the flier for the Carnival is probably foreshadowing of the evil that will break into this relationship later in the story. It's a relationship that's pure, if mysterious right now - but it won't stay that way.
Chapters 9 & 10
This chapter begins with Jim Nightshade at home, in bed and musing on life and other things. Bradbury gives a more thorough description of Jim, calling him, "He was marbled with dark, was Jim Nightshade, a boy who talked less and smiled less as the years increased." He talks about how Jim is unable to look away from things ever, so he's seen all the world's dirty secrets and is older than thirteen. Will is able to look above and to the sides of things and is half his actual age in innocence. Will barely knows his shadow and Jim has memorized his. Jim's Mother comes into the room and scolds him for leaving the window open. We find out that his Father and three siblings are all dead. Jim says he knows everything, that there is no reason to have kids, because people just die. He vows he'll never get married or have kids, so nothing will ever be able to hurt him. His Mom says Jim will change his mind, He says the window is open because he has "warm blood." Jim's Mother says, "Warm blood. That's the story of all our sorrows. And don't ask why." When she leaves, Jim feels the storm coming. He decides to go knock down the lightning rod, just to see what happens. The next chapter has the lightning rod salesman walking through town, being stopped in his tracks when he sees the woman in ice Will's Father saw earlier, the "Most Beautiful Woman In The World." He remembers the beauty he has seen in the statues of Europe and paintings of the Louvre. He's tempted into the store by the promise of the beauty trapped within the ice, thinking he can melt her. The door closes behind him.
Thoughts: The reader is given further insight into Jim Nightshade and the life that is transforming him into the dark man he's slowly becoming. The pain and suffering of his family, versus the happy confusion of Will's relationship with his own (where everyone is still alive) is very stark. It just serves to highlight even further the innate goodness of one and the struggle between good and evil of the other. I liked the passage where Bradbury compares the innocence levels of both boys.
"The trouble with Jim was that he looked at the world and could not look away. And when you never look away all your life, by the time you are thirteen you have done twenty years taking in the laundry of the world. Will Halloway, it was in him young to always look just beyond, over or to one side. So at thirteen he had saved up only six years worth of staring."
Chapters 11 & 12
Clocks chiming at midnight wake up both Will and Jim from their respective sleeps. Both boys go to their windows and hang out of them, seeing what looks like the first storm cloud in the distance. Then the carnival's train appears from the darkness, and they exclaim excitedly over the engine, the flags and animal cages. Will remarks that the calliope music almost sounds like church music - but wrong. Jim wants to go watch them setup, so he climbs out his bedroom window; Will reluctantly follows, not wanting him to go over there by himself. Will is running after Jim who Bradbury compares to a kite with the twine cut, having a purpose and destination no one else can see. Will thinks about why he's jealous of Jim, coming to the conclusion that Jim may be a fool, but he is nothing but a coward himself. No one is actually playing the calliope. Will thinks about how train whistles often make him cry at night, with their forlorn sounds. This one though, is different.
"The wails of a lifetime were gathered in it from other nights in other slumbering years; the howl of moon-dreamed dogs, the seep of River-cold winds through January porch screens
which stopped the blood, a thousand fire sirens, weeping or worse! the outgone shreds
of breath, the protests of a billion people dead or dying, not wanting to be dead,
their groans, their sighs, burst over the earth!"
Jim and Will are both crying and screaming against the sound, hearing something otherworldly in it. The carnivals vehicles stop in an autumn meadow usually frequented by couples in the moonlight. Black confetti, black pennants and a man with a dark suit, black shirt and gloved hands conducting everything. The tent and everything else start to set themselves up within the quiet and shadows, with seemingly no on actually working on them. Will feels something sinister and wants to leave, while Jim is transfixed by the black flags with demons and other creatures on them. When a bird cries out, the boys run back to town.
Thoughts: Now we are finally building into the separation of Will and Jim, the descent into good and evil by the two of them. Jim's fixation on dark, sinister things (namely the carnival) and Will's determination for Jim not to go forward alone seem to be the thin strands holding them together. At the end of the chapter the last sentence hints at the break between the two boys with the last two lines.
"Cloud shadows panicked them over the hills to the edge of town.
From there, the two boys ran alone."
Charles Halloway is at the library, looking out the window, and sees Jim & Will running down the street. In his mind he calls out to them, but doesn't say anything out loud. He wanders through the library, cleaning and listening to the odd calliope music and the whistle. The carnival is described in dark terms, with the carousel having night beasts in mid-gallop, and the Mirror Maze which holds hollow, empty vanities. Charles Halloway wonders if the maze would reveal himself into eternity, in all his forms. His stomach is souring but he can't make himself look away from the window. The hour, three o'clock, repeats itself in his mind over and over. He feels torn between going there and not, liking it or not liking it. Heading home, Charles looks into the store window and sees a pool of water where the Most Beautiful Woman's ice block had been. But he keeps walking home. Meanwhile, the maze sits waiting for a victim.
Thoughts: Just like his last chapter, Charles Halloway's thoughts and feelings are portrayed beautifully by Bradbury, which is different from the way he expresses Will or Jim. Will's Father is expressed with the regret, envy and reality of adulthood, mixed with the memory of being a child. It's definitely interesting to see the carnival through his eyes and it seems like the hour of three o'clock is going to have some significance. His view of it is just as dark as Jim's, but with nostalgia for an innocence like Will's clouding the truth of the evil in it. My favorite quote:
"If a man stood here would he see himself unfolded away a billion times to eternity?
Would a billion images look back, each face and the face after and the face after that
old, older, oldest? Would he find himself lost in a fine dust away off
deep down there, not fifty but sixty, not sixty but seventy, not seventy but eighty,
ninety, ninety-nine years old? The maze did not ask. The maze did not tell."
Next Assignment: Chapters 14-19, Pages 58-89
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!