For this post, I’ll be quoting from the following edition of Ray Bradbury’s masterful novel Something Wicked This Way Comes:
Bradbury, Ray. Something Wicked This Way Comes. Large Print edition, Center Point Publishing, 2000.
The page numbers will be different if you are reading from another edition of the book.
Something Wicked This Way Comes Is an Exploration of Opposites.
Will is like the Daytime and Jim is like the Night.
Will’s last name Halloway alludes to the fact that the word “Hallow” has to do with Holy or Saintly things.
Jim’s last name is Nightshade.
Night versus day or darkness versus light is a significant theme in literature.
The action in chapter 2 of Something Wicked This Way Comes begins on a night that blew warm and cool.
Like the characters Will and Jim, warm and cool are opposites. Something Wicked is about opposites.
“So it was on this night that blew warm, then cool, as they let the wind take them downtown at eight o’clock.” Bradbury page 22.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is also about opposites, in regards to time.
In Chapter 1, we met Tom Fury. Tom Fury, the Seller of Lightning Rods is old, and the boys are young. Youth versus old age is a theme in literature, and older people are often considered to be in the autumns of their lives.
Something Wicked This Way Comes takes place during the month of October–during autumn.
Something Wicked This Way Comes Prologue
“First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. … Consider August, a good month: school hasn’t begun yet. July, well, July’s really fine: there’s no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June’s best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September’s a billion years away.
“But you take October, now. you riding easier in the reins jogging along. … And if it’s around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash t=gray at twilight, it seems Haloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.” Bradbury page 11
Read some words that other writers have written about autumn:
In Chapter 2 of Something Wicked This Way Comes, Will and Jim race to the library, where Will’s dad works.
The main goal of Chapter 2 seems to be that of focusing on the oldness that will be another major theme in this book. In the passage about the library, Bradbury mentions some of the old types of stories that can be found in the library. He mentions stories about cannons and guillotines. People fought wars with cannons from the 1200s through World War II. Soldiers fight with missiles, drones, etc., now. He mentioned greenshaded lamps, and that was a style of llibrary lamps during Bradbury’s life.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
“It was all so good, these blowing quiet October nights and the library waiting inside now with its green-shaded lamps and papyrus dust.” Bradbury pg, 23.
Image Credit Wikipedia
Papyrus dust alludes to the paper-type substance made from the papyrus plant in ancient Egypt–back as long ago as 400 years before the birth of Christ.
“Papyrus is made from the stem of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus. The outer rind is first removed, and the sticky fibrous inner pith is cut lengthwise into thin strips of about 40 cm (16 in) long. The strips are then placed side by side on a hard surface with their edges slightly overlapping, and then another layer of strips is laid on top at right angles.”Wikipedia
Bradbury’s Description of the Library:
“Out in the world, not much happened. But here in the special night, a land bricked with paper and leather, anything might happen, always did. Listen! and you heard ten thousand people screaming so high only dogs feathered their ears. A million folk ran toting cannons, sharpening guillotines; Chinese, four abreast, marched on forever. Invisible, silent, yes, but Jim and Will had the gift of ears and noses as well as the gift of tongues. This was a factory of spices from far countries. Here alien deserts slumbered. Up front was the desk where the nice old lady, Miss Watriss, purple-stamped your books, but down off away were Tibet and Antarctica, the Congo. There went Miss Wills, the other librarian, through Outer Mongolia, calmly toting fragments of Peiping and Yokohama and the Celebes. Way down the third book corridor, an oldish man whispered his broom along in the dark, mounding the fallen. . . .
“Will stared. It was always a surprise – that old man, his work, his name. That’s Charles William Halloway, thought Will, not grand-father, not far-wandering, ancient uncle, as some might think, but. . .my father.” Bradbury pgs 23-24. . . .
There is a bit of awkwardness between Will and his dad: “That’s Charles William Halloway, thought Will, not grand-father, not far-wandering, ancient uncle, as some might think, but. . .my father. ” Bradbury pg. 24.
“They stood now, a boy with corn-coloured hair and a man with moon-white hair, a boy with a summer-apple, a man with a winter-apple face. Dad, Dad, thought Will, why, why, he looks. . .like me in a smashed mirror!” Bradbury, pg.25.
Back in the pioneer days–probably before then–people allowed their apples to dry naturally to make heads for dolls. In the previous passage, Bradbury is saying that the face of Will’s dad looked like a dried apple doll’s head.
Image Credit Dusty Old Thing – Apple Head Dolls: https://dustyoldthing.com/apple-head-dolls-diy/
Although Will feels awkward around his dad, he knows that his dad is a good person. Will’s dad has moon-white hair, and the moon is a light in the night sky that balances the blackness of the night.
Lights in the Night
“And suddenly Will remembered nights rising at two in the morning to go to the bathroom and spying across town to see that one single light in the high library window and know Dad had lingered on late murmuring and reading alone under these green jungle lamps.” Bradbury pg. 25.
Mr. Dark [who has not appeared in the book by Chapter 2] is absolutely black. But life is rarely absolutely black. In most cases, the blackest night is partially lit by the stars and the moon. I call the stars and the moon the lights in the night. In the above passage, Will’s dad appears to be a light in the night. I believe the passage above is foreshadowing
Later in Chapter 2, Bradbury mentions the stars:
“Outside, a weather of stars ran clear in an ocean sky.” Bradbury, pg 26.