The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
The October Country consists of nineteen stories, fourteen of them reworked versions of stories originally collected in Dark Carnival (1947). The remaining five are collected here for the first time in book form. These haunting stories explore none of the themes that dominate Ray Bradbury’s later work. They are weird tales of ghosts, vampires, and everyday people caught in impossible situations or saddled with dark obsessions.
Bradbury’s characters often are objects of ridicule, outcasts who crave acceptance. In “The Dwarf,” Ralph Banghart, a carnival worker, runs a mirror maze. He shows Amiee, a coworker, the antics of a dwarf who frequents the maze to see himself stretched tall in one of the convex mirrors. Amiee sympathizes with the dwarf, and the jealous Ralph replaces the convex mirror with a concave one. The dwarf finds his reflection further dwarfed and runs away screaming and suicidal. “Homecoming” tells of a human child struggling for acceptance in a family of vampires.
Many of the stories deal with death—its certainty and the ways people react to this certainty. In “The Scythe,” a poor farmer inherits the job of Grim Reaper. Each day he must harvest blades of wheat that represent those scheduled to die. He tries to spare his family, but they are trapped between life and death. In his attempt to free them, he slashes wildly and indiscriminately at the wheat, thus beginning World War II.
(The entire section is 551 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury. New York: Chelsea House, 2001.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” New York: Chelsea House, 2001.
Eller, Jonathan R., and William F. Touponce. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004.
Reid, Robin Ann. Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.
Touponce, William F. Naming the Unnameable: Ray Bradbury and the Fantastic After Freud. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1997.
Weist, Jerry, and Donn Albright. Bradbury, an Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor. New York: William Morrow, 2002.
Weller, Sam. The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury. New York: William Morrow, 2005.