Topics for Discussion
1. What is the significance of the salesman who comes to sell Jim and Will a lightning rod at the beginning of the novel?
2. Jim and Will realize the wicked nature of the carnival. Why is Charlie, Will's father, the only other character who understands the danger?
3. Some of the characters are named for traits which they embrace. List some of these people and explain why they are named as they are.
4. What is the significance of the lightning rod? Why is it "finely scratched and etched with strange languages, names that could tie the tongue or break the jaw, numerals that added to incomprehensible sums, pictographs of insectanimals all bristle, chaff, and claw?"
5. Discuss Will's relationship with his father.
6. Why are Will and Jim such close friends? Is this purely a small-town phenomenon?
7. What first convinces you that the carnival has an underlying wicked element to it?
8. Jim and Will get accused of robbery by Miss Foley. Will thinks, "No one'll believe anything we say from now on! Not about carnivals, not about carousels, not about mirrors or evil nephews, not about nothing!" How do Jim and Will convince people that they are telling the truth?
9. What is a calliope? What is its significance in the novel?
10. Church bells are mentioned more than once in the novel. Why are they important? Discuss their role in the plot.