As is appropriate, given Bradbury’s intentions, the protagonists, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, are essentially allegorical figures rather than realistic, fully developed characters. In the novel, they function as Bradbury’s picture of boyhood split in two, portraying the dual nature of boys, innocence and mischief, nostalgia and the passionate desire to gain the status of an adult. The story’s events take place just before their fourteenth year, so they are in a time between carefree childhood and adolescence, which brings the beginnings of responsibility. The carnival is their first direct contact with the malevolent yet attractive outer world. Will, content to remain a child, is repulsed by the Shadow Show. His danger is that he will be paralyzed by fear, as at one point he is paralyzed by a fortune-teller’s magic, yet Will does acquire the courage to strike back at the freaks in order to save Jim, indicating that he is growing up. By contrast, Jim is eager to enter the adult world by any means and nearly joins the carnival to accomplish this. Jim’s interest in life’s dark side is not in itself evil, but it could easily lead to perversity. By the novel’s end, his restless spirit has been chastened by his contact with Cooger and Dark, and he is ready to develop at a natural pace.
Cooger and Dark, the carnival’s proprietors, are living embodiments of evil. Dark, with his tattoo-covered body, is obviously taken from Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man (1951), while Cooger and his carousel transformations had previously appeared in “The Dark Ferris” (1948). They and their followers are the “autumn people,” according to Mr. Halloway, those who fear the approach of winter and death so much that they...
(The entire section is 712 words.)
Will Halloway, a boy of almost fourteen, born one minute before midnight on October 30. He is the best friend of Jim Nightshade. The less adventuresome of the two, he is frightened by the hypnotically attractive carnival that appears in Green Town, Illinois, just before Halloween. He is still very much a young boy, in contrast to Jim. His experience with the evil Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show helps to teach him about the value of friendship, the importance of his father, and the nature of evil. He brings down the wrath of Cooger and Dark by jamming the carousel’s controls in the forward position while Cooger is riding the machine, thus turning the man into an ancient, dying being. Will eventually acquires the courage necessary to fight off the sideshow freaks and help his father save Jim Nightshade.
Jim Nightshade, Will Halloway’s best friend, born one minute after midnight on October 31. His father has died. In contrast to Will, Jim is the dark side of youth and is very much attracted to the carnival and its mysterious and threatening sideshow and rides. Jim is eager to grow up and falls under the spell of the promise of adulthood held out to him by the carousel, which ages a person one year for every one of its forward revolutions. By the novel’s conclusion, he has learned that growing up takes time, and he is content to let time run its course naturally.
Charles Halloway, Will’s father. He married late in life and considers himself an unworthy man. He works as a janitor in the Green Town library and is a man of tremendous...
(The entire section is 684 words.)