Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

Ray Bradbury's 1962 fantasy novel ''Something Wicked This Way Comes'' tells of a town that falls under the spell of an evil carnival performer and deals with the themes of temptation and fear and the transition from childhood to adulthood.

The Dark Carnival

What would you do if a mysterious man came to your town and told you he could grant you any desire you have? If you are worried there might be a catch, you're smarter than most of the characters in Ray Bradbury's 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.

In this novel, 13-year-old friends Jim Nightshade and William Halloway encounter a mysterious carnival performer named Mr. Dark, who comes to town one October and places the townspeople under his control. The novel portrays the friends' transition from childhood to adulthood, and also explores the themes of fear, temptation, and the struggle between good and evil.


The story opens in Green Town, Illinois on October 23. Best friends Jim Nightshade and William Holloway are about to turn 14, and are excited to learn a carnival is coming to town. It is unusual for the carnival to so late in the year, but William's father, Charles the well-read and philosophical town librarian, has a bad feeling about it.

The next day, the boys go to the carnival and have to help their former teacher, Miss Foley, out of the Mirror Maze when she begins to panic. Later, Jim also has to be helped out of the Mirror Maze. William starts to share his dad's misgivings about the carnival, but Jim wants to go back that night, even after his experience in the Mirror Maze.

When they return that evening, the boys end up near a broken-down carousel. There they encounter two men named Mr. Cooger and Mr. Dark, the carnival's Illustrated Man, who is covered in tattoos. Mr. Dark seems only interested in Jim, who is fascinated by the carousel. The boys are finally told to leave, which they pretend to do, but then hide in the bushes. They watch as Mr. Cooger gets on the carousel and rides it backwards. When he gets off, he is twelve years old. They thenfollow Mr. Cooger to Miss Foley's house, where he says he is her nephew who got lost at the carnival.

Jim wants to meet up with Mr. Cooger and ride the carousel, but Will tries to stop him. Jim runs back toward the carnival, where Mr. Cooger is now back on the carousel, growing older. Jim attempts to join him, but Will catches up and stops him. In the struggle, Will hits the controls and the carousel spins out of control, aging Mr. Cooger over 100 years.

They try to tell the police but, by the time they come back, Mr. Cooger is gone. That night, another carnival performer, the blind Dust Witch, comes in a balloon to get Will and Jim, but Will outsmarts her and destroys her balloon.

The next day, Jim and Will meet a young girl that they realize is Miss Foley, and they also realize the whole carnival is out looking for them. They enlist Charles, who hides the boys and does some research at the library, finding out about the true nature of the carnival. He finds out that the only weapon against them is love, but he's not sure how to use it.

That night, Charles, Will, and Jim fight Mr. Dark and the Dust Witch. The Dust Witch captures Charles and is about to kill him when he starts laughing. His laughter drives the witch away. Having figured out how to defeat them, Charles uses his laughter to kill the Witch, destroy the Mirror Maze, and rescue Will. They then defeat Mr. Dark on the carousel and rescue Jim by also using the power of laughter.

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