Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes Summary and Analysis of Chapters 51 - 54


Charles and Will approach the carousel and see the carnival freaks hidden in the shadows around it. Some of them are carrying "Mr. Electrico" in his electric chair toward the carousel. Will also realizes that Jim will be drawn toward the forward-spinning carousel. Suddenly, the denizens who had been carrying Mr. Electrico drop him and his body explodes into a cloud of dust.

Jim approaches the carousel, half-entranced, and jumps onto it. Will rushes forward and attempts to pull his friend off. Jim circles the carousel once on his own before waking up and realizing where he is and what he is doing. Torn between staying on and jumping off, he freezes. Charles runs to the control box to try and shut the carousel down. Meanwhile, Will grabs Jim's outstretched hand, trying to pull him off, but ends up dragged onto the carousel himself. They make a half-rotation together before Will seizes Jim and hurls both of them off the ride. The carousel comes to a stop, and Jim lies on the ground, not moving.

Just then Mr. Dark arrives, disguised as a boy of nine years old, and tries to lead Charles away. Charles sees through the ruse and realizes the way to kill Mr. Dark. He hugs the young Mr. Dark close, like a son, and thinks, "Evil has only the power we give it. I give you nothing. Starve." At that, Mr. Dark falls dead and the tattoos that cover almost every inch of his body begin to disappear, including tattoos of the various freaks.

With this, the freaks appear almost to have had weights removed from their necks and chains removed from their wrists. They watch as their own tattoos disappear. They sigh as the last tattoos vanish and then stampede in all directions, yanking tent ropes and loosening pegs. The tents sway and then fall. The Skeleton, the only freak left, picks up the crumpled body of the boy Mr. Dark and carries him away.

Jim is cold to the touch and he has no heartbeat, and Will begins to despair before his father strikes him and reminds him to laugh in the face of death. He pulls out a harmonica and Will and he begin to sing "Swanee River." Eventually convinced, Will and Charles laugh at the absurdity of death and Jim wakes up, watching them.

Charles warns the boys that though the carnival appears to have been defeated, it will appear again soon in some other guise, again tempting them to be dissatisfied, filling people with images of death and feeding on fear. All three briefly contemplate keeping the carousel for themselves but realize that to do so would invite a perpetual dependance on it. As Charles says:

You'd always come back.... And, after a while, you'd offer rides to friends, and more friends, until finally... you wind up owner of the carousel, keeper of the freaks... proprietor for some small part of eternity of the traveling dark carnival shows....

Thus Charles finds a wrench and smashes the carousel's gears and controls. Then the three run back into town together, gleefully, realizing that death is not important -- it's what happens before death that matters.


As the boys ride the carousel and grow older, we might recall the Prologue, which told us that the two boys would "grow up overnight." This turns out to be literally as well as figuratively true. Will has indeed grown throughout the course of the novel, becoming more assertive and confident and also strengthening his relationship with his father. Jim, for his part, had begun to put his obsession with growing older behind him, until this setback. Perhaps now he can fully accept his youth. Indeed, accepting one's youth and taking age as it comes is the key to maturity, whatever one's years.

Many of the primary themes of the novel are repeated, reiterated, and clarified in the final two chapters of the novel. "Evil has only the power we give it," is a phrase that nicely summarizes one central theme. Earlier, Charles had theorized that the carnival fed off the sins and desires of everyday people. This was the case with Charles, who had fed the carnival with his desire to be young. The carnival almost destroyed him until he was able to accept the inevitability of aging, thus depriving the carnival of its source of "food."

We see that laughter, happiness, and acceptance actually bring Jim back from the dead. Previously, laughter in the dace of death saved Charles from the Dust Witch in the library, killed the same witch with a magic bullet, and shattered the mirrors in the fun house. Laughter in the face of death has now demonstrated its utility for a fourth and final time in the novel.

Finally, Bradbury suggests that the carnival is only one of many similar entities in this world, all of which feed off of human fear and desire. In fact, Charles thinks that they will have only about a day to wait before something similar returns. The carnival, then, represents all of life's pitfalls, the things that can weigh you down and make you depressed and yearn for something different. Charles and the boys have each won one battle against this force, but there are many more to come. Charles implies that each day will be a battle, and one victory will not last for long. By tomorrow, Charles may again be upset at the limitations of his age and his eventual death. By tomorrow, Jim may again feel the desire to be older than he is. These desires do not go away; taming them requires a constant process of acceptance, through which one accepts one's age, limitations, and eventual demise, and lives life free of sadness and regret.