Something Wicked This Way Comes Questions and Answers
by Ray Bradbury

Start Your Free Trial

What is a summary of Something Wicked This Way Comes?

Expert Answers info

d-white5309 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write56 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a fantasy novel written by Ray Bradbury, published in 1962. The story focuses largely on the relationship between 13-year-old best friends Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade. Shortly before their 14th birthday (which falls on the same day), a traveling carnival arrives in town, run by a mysterious man named Mr. Dark, which changes the nature of the relationship between the main characters.

Early in the story, the boys realize that the carnival is offering to give the townspeople that which they most desire, although it is usually a trap and the individual is instead transformed into a hideous sideshow performer for the carnival. The transformation often involves either rapidly aging the townspeople or making them younger with the help of a magic merry-go-round. Over the course of the novel, Will, Jim, and Will's father slowly uncover Mr. Dark's plan and form their own strategy to stop him.

The story is a very nostalgic, straightforward coming-of-age tale with magical overtones and fantastic elements; however, Something Wicked is really a story about relationships, friendships, and the uncertainty that accompanies growing up.

Although they are about as close as two people can be outside of a romantic relationship, Will and Jim are also very different in a few ways. Will doesn't necessarily mind being young and is anxious about the future, whereas Jim very much dislikes being young and can't wait to grow up. This is the major source of conflict in their relationship and is present throughout the entire story, particularly when Will becomes angry with Jim for wanting to look through the window of the people having sex and when Jim decides to leave Will behind and explore the carnival on his own.

Will's fear that Jim will abandon him becomes clear after they are brought home from the carnival by the police. While arguing about Jim wanting to grow older by riding the merry-go-round, Will remarks, "You two feet taller and going around feeling your leg and arm bones? You looking down at me, Jim, and what'd we talk about, me with my pockets full of kite string and marbles and frog-eyes, and you with clean nice and empty pockets and making fun, is that what we'd talk about..." In this statement, Will is demonstrating that his biggest fear is that their relationship will change as they get older, and that Jim won't need him anymore or will leave him behind.

The other emphasis of the story is on the relationship between Will and his father. Will's parents had a child a little bit later in their life and his father always felt that he was too old to play with his son like other fathers. He is also preoccupied with getting older and feels as though his life has passed him by. These two anxieties are intertwined for Will's father and they become evident during their planning meeting at the library.

"I'm a fool," Will's father says, "always looking over your shoulder to see what's coming instead of right at you to see what's here." In that moment, Charles Holloway is saying that because he's spent so much of his life worried about getting old, he never really bothered to see what he did have and could do. He was so convinced that he was too old to be a good father that he never really bothered to try.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial