Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 617
Something Wicked This Way Comes incorporates many of the themes of Ray Bradbury’s earlier work and all of his stylistic strengths and weaknesses. The novel is written in Bradbury’s richly figurative language, with countless similes and metaphors, which are at times breathtaking in their originality and at other times simply...
(The entire section contains 617 words.)
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Something Wicked This Way Comes incorporates many of the themes of Ray Bradbury’s earlier work and all of his stylistic strengths and weaknesses. The novel is written in Bradbury’s richly figurative language, with countless similes and metaphors, which are at times breathtaking in their originality and at other times simply puzzling. While this sometimes inspired, sometimes contrived style of expression is likely to frustrate the novel’s target age-group, the fast-paced plot is visceral and unrelenting.
One of the novel’s clear themes concerns the importance and strength of friendship. Throughout the novel Will and Jim are portrayed as twins, yet there are some personality differences that strain their relationship. The differences are minor, but they hold the fearsome potential of forcing a wedge between the two. Illustrative of this theme is the fact that Will was born one minute before midnight and Jim one minute after. Although only two minutes actually separate their ages, Jim is technically a day older than Will, and the resulting sense of hierarchy has had profound effects on the ways in which the boys have developed. Jim is aggressive, impulsive, and impatient to be grown; Will is more introverted, deliberate, and patient. Jim yearns to be older, despite the effects that age would have on their friendship; Will fears being left behind. Jim recklessly blunders into danger; Will follows, reluctant and cautious.
The character of Charles Halloway embodies the theme of lost youth, the fear of the effects of age, and ultimately the fear of death. He is unwilling to surrender the unfulfilled promises of his youth. Paradoxically, the same attributes of youth that Jim shuns in his craving to be older are the very ones that Charles covets. He yearns nostalgically for the energy, vibrancy, and possibility of youth, while Jim longs to cast these same things off. The story’s fascination with the cycle of life and the passage of time is represented by the circular motion of the carousel and by frequent references to clocks and time. Both Jim and Charles are tempted by the promise of the age-altering carousel, and both can only find happiness by overcoming their desire and finding satisfaction in their lot. When Charles Halloway enters the Hall of Mirrors and sees his body aging in each of the successive mirror reflections, the experience amounts to a revelation of his greatest fear. It is only when he literally laughs in the face of this mortality that he is able to overcome the specter of death.
The clearest theme of Something Wicked This Way Comes deals with the nature of goodness and evil. As the novel progresses, the inhabitants of the carnival come to appear purely evil, but none of the other characters is purely good. Cooger and Dark represent lives given over completely to evil, and Charles Halloway sees in himself the potential to follow in their footsteps, if not for his continued personal commitment to decency and his eternal vigilance and introspection. After the evil carnival is destroyed and the story arrives at its resolution, Charles Halloway warns the two boys, “We got to watch out the rest of our lives. The fight’s just begun.” When the boys ask him where the evil ones will come from next, he answers, “Maybe they’re here already.” Bradbury suddenly moves the battleground against evil inside humanity. The potential for evil is as inescapable a part of the human condition as the aging process. It is only when the story’s protagonists accept and embrace all the weaknesses of human flesh by confronting their mortality and their personal evil and by laughing in its face that the villains in the book are vanquished.