The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

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.

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(The entire section is 551 words.)