Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes Summary and Analysis of Chapters 46 - 50


The boys arrive at the carnival grounds with Mr. Dark, the Dwarf, and the Skeleton. A half mile back, the Dust Witch follows, strangely wounded. And a half mile behind her, Charles follows both parties. Mr. Dark leads the boys through the Mirror Maze to a Waxworks at its end. The boys cannot move, and the late-night carnival attendees mistake them for wax.

Back outside, Mr. Dark, his shirt off and his tattoos writhing, shouts to the crowd that there is one last free event for the evening: "The Most Amazingly Dangerous, ofttimes Fatal - World Famous Bullet Trick!" Just then, the Dust Witch climbs on stage, and Mr. Dark introduces her as "the death defier, the bullet-catcher who will stake her life." She quietly tells Mr. Dark that Charles is still alive. He is stunned. "Stop the act," she tells him, but he proceeds, calling for volunteers. No one in the crowd responds. He begins to say that the trick will be cancelled, when Charles raises his hand to volunteer.

The crowd parts before Charles. Looking into the Mirror Maze he thinks he can see the two faint shadows of Jim and Will, reflected on the glass, but he puts this out of mind. A smile on his face, he walks through the crowd and onto the stage. Mr. Dark sees Charles's mangled left hand and says that he couldn't possibly hold a rifle with that, but Charles responds that he will do it one handed. As if to test him, Mr. Dark throws the rifle at Charles, who deftly catches it in his good hand. The crowd laughs and cheers. The Dust Witch shrinks back.

"I need a boy volunteer," shouts Charles. "My son's out there. He'll volunteer, won't you Will?" Mr. Dark and the Dust Witch grow still more fearful as the crowd joins Charles in calling for his son, smiling and laughing all the while. Will appears at the entrance of the Mirror Maze, still unseeing and unaware, but able to walk towards his father. Charles jokes and laughs with the crowd before asking Mr. Dark for the bullet. "Mark it with your initials," says Mr. Dark, but Charles marks it with something else: a crescent moon.

He gives the bullet back to Mr. Dark, who appears to put it into the gun, but Charles knows that Mr. Dark will switch the real bullet with one made of wax, which will dissolve in the high heat of the fired gun. Meanwhile, Mr. Dark will have passed the real (and marked) bullet to the Dust Witch, who will have it hidden in her mouth. Knowing this, Charles opens the rifle, removes the (unmarked) wax bullet and marks it again with the crescent. Mr. Dark squeezes his fist, crushing Will's image on his palm. Will falters, but Charles rouses the crowd's laughter in return. This laughter comforts Will and negates Mr. Dark's powers. Just before firing, Charles informs the Dust Witch with his thoughts that the "crescent moon" he drew was really a representation of his smile. She understands. He fires the rifle and she slumps to the floor, dead.

Will shrieks himself awake and Mr. Dark sends everyone home. Meanwhile Will and Charles run into the Maze to rescue Jim. Charles sees his reflections in the Maze, one million "sick-mouthed, frost-haired, white-tine-bearded men." He is momentarily overwhelmed with despair, but Will strikes a match and cries, "I love you," at which Charles confronts the images and lets out a tremendous laugh. The mirrors shatter.

Charles and Will walk to the wax figures but Jim is not among them. In the distance, they hear the calliope music of the carousel. "There," thinks Will. "If Jim's anywhere, it's there," and the two walk out of the tent.


Charles has inadvertently stumbled upon the carnival's weaknesses: a lack of fear and unhappiness. He expresses this through laughter and smiles, which terrify the Dust Witch and limit Mr. Dark's power over Will. In Chapter 48, we see the true power of fearlessness over the dark carnival. It not only weakens its powers: it has the power to destroy it completely.

We also see that while Charles appears to have made his peace with Death in his encounter with the Dust Witch in the library, this transformation may not be as complete as previously thought. On a certain gut level, while lying close to death under the fingers of the Dust Witch, Charles looked Death in the face and laughed. In the Maze, however, we see that he has still not completely made his peace with all that death entails: namely, his own age, which will only increase as time passes.

In Chapter 49, the prospect of old age is presented to Charles in terrible visions of himself in ten, twenty, forty, a hundred years' time, and he falls underneath their weight. To use the language Charles himself presented in his library monologue, these "somethings" -- that is, concrete images of the approach of death -- prove harder to laugh at than the "nothing" that is death itself. However, with Will's assurance that he will always be loved, Charles finds the strength even to laugh at the "somethings," fully shattering the carnival's power.

Thus Charles displays his final acceptance of all that life has to offer: the good and the bad, the old and the young. Bradbury suggests that old age is a certainty, and worrying about it can only do harm. The only response is to accept the fact and move on. By doing so, you free yourself live life to its fullest and to enjoy they things that matter most, such as the love of your children.