Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes Study Guide

Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of Ray Bradbury's most popular works. It tells the story of two friends, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, who are thirteen and yearn to be older. The story thus examines themes of maturity and aging, concentrating on the cusp between childhood and adulthood. The book also tells of Will's father, Charles, who feels old and wishes to young again, thus reversing the desire of the younger pair. Their anxieties about aging and adulthood play out against the backdrop of a mysterious carnival that comes to their town.

Something Wicked This Way Comes can be most easily described as a horror story, filled with monsters and suspense, though it also touches upon more traditionally "literary" themes, such as childhood and innocence. At its heart, the novel is a coming-of-age story about growing up and accepting who you are. This "serious" side of the book follows from its personal origins: there is a great deal of Bradbury's own childhood within its pages nd the town in which the story takes place, the fictional Green Town, Illinois, is modeled after Bradbury's own childhood home of Waukegan, IL. In many ways, Something Wicked This Way Comes can be viewed as a companion novel to the lighter Dandelion Wine, which tells the story of two young boys over the course of a magical and idyllic summer.

In a brief "Afterword", Bradbury explains the origins of the novel. In 1950, just after the publication of The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury had dinner with the actor/singer Gene Kelly, star of Singing in the Rain. A few years later, Gene invited the author on set for a private screening of Invitation to a Dance. These experiences awakened in Bradbury a desire to work with Kelly on a movie. Bradbury searched through his files and found an unpublished ten-page short story called "The Black Ferris", about two boys at a carnival at night. Over the next few weeks, Bradbury reworked the story into a full-length screenplay called Dark Carnival. He sent it to Gene who tried unsuccessfully to arrange financing for the picture. Bradbury spent the next five years writing Something Wicked This Way Comes from the Dark Carnival screenplay.

The title of the novel comes from a remark made by the "weird sisters" in Shakespeare's Macbeth: "By the pricking of my thumbs / Something wicked this way comes". It was made into a Disney movie in 1983 starring Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark, Pam Grier as the Dust Witch, and Jason Robards as Charles Halloway.