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Free Study Guide-Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 39

Summary

Will mentions that Charles has always been helpful to the boys, but Charles refutes that. He feels as if he’s a fool, constantly looking out to what see what will be instead of what is. The carnival, Charles says, feeds on fools like himself. Will feels as if it’s hopeless, and Charles says that the mere fact they’re worrying about it means it’s not. Charles philosophizes that had man wanted to stay evil, he could have. Instead he discovered love, and civilizations slowly emerged. As a result, they are creatures that know too much and have a choice whether to laugh or cry. The carnival moves in to feed on tears. Charles pauses as the boys mention how great his speech is. He resumes, trying to convey the power of love to them. He strains for the right words and the proper analogy and says that all men have women in common. He stops, and Will’s eyes beg him to continue, and it is clear that both boys feel that Charles’ voice alone will save them. Charles goes on to say that only really knowing is good. He feels they have about two hours before the carnival will pay them a visit. The boys ask who Cooger and Dark truly are, and Charles says it’s possible that the men are anyone who suffered years ago. Nightmares, pain, and fear are something they now feed on and have throughout time. The boys realize that with the carousel, Cooger and Dark could be immortal. Halloway, at Jim’s prompting, says that hurt fuels the carnival. They need pain, sorrow, and sickness. Charles goes on to say he knows this information because he can feel it.


Notes

Charles has spent years waiting to impart the philosophy he is now sharing with the boys. He has spent most of his life talking to himself about the theories, and the boys are amazed to realize the grandeur of his speech. They feel that his speech can save them. In imparting Cooger and Dark’s probable history, Charles makes it clear that evil has been around for all of time, and these two men are simply a product of that. All three know the carnival is coming for them, and Charles only hopes his message about love will save the boys. It is now clear that good versus evil will be the overpowering theme throughout the end of the story.

CHAPTER 40

Summary

Jim asks if the carnival buys souls, and Charles says no, because people are eager to give their souls away. Charles further says that they’re not dealing with the devil, only a creature that has learned to live off of souls. Live souls function as fuel. The evil survives off of sins committed against people. Charles mentions that he’s talking too much, but he goes on anyway. Jim asks if the carnival kills, but Charles says no, they only use death as a threat because death is nothing, and that’s why it scares people. People can only fight something, but they have difficulty dealing with nothing. The carnival builds on that without telling people that if they’re miserable in one form, they will be in another form because they won’t be losing their brain, only their form. That creates madness, and when victims have no one else to turn to, they turn to the carnival, which promises to listen and help. Charles describes each of the freaks, and the possible sins they’ve committed. He then draws a map, and they try to decide what to do. Will suggests methods of death like those in storybooks, but Jim says it won’t work. Will says if book methods won’t work, they must burn the carnival down. At that moment, though, they hear the door to the library open and close. Charles tells the boys they must hide.

Notes

Bradbury, through Charles, emphasizes the fact that people have little regard for their souls. He further emphasizes that all evil is not the devil. There are smaller forms of evil that are just as bad. The description of the freaks and the possible sins they’ve committed is helpful in that one can relate to those sins and see what happens if they’re carried too far. The attempted planning session is spoiled at the end, signifying that they couldn’t plan to end this evil if they tried.

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Free Study Guide-Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
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