Few American novels written this century have endured in the heart and mind as has this one-Ray Bradbury's incomparable masterwork of the dark fantastic. A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A... read more
The novel opens on a cloudy October 23rd. Two friends, William Halloway and Jim Nightshade, both on the verge of their fourteenth birthdays, encounter a strange lightning rod salesman who claims that a storm is coming their way. Throughout that same night, Will and... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The novel opens on a cloudy October 23rd. Two friends, William Halloway and Jim Nightshade, both on the verge of their fourteenth birthdays, encounter a strange lightning rod salesman who claims that a storm is coming their way. Throughout that same night, Will and Jim meet up with townsfolk who also sense something in the air; the barber says that the air smells of cotton candy. Among the townspeople is Will's 54-year-old father, Charles Halloway (who works in the local library, and who broods philosophically about his position in life, including on how he misses being young like his son). Both Charles Halloway and the boys learn about the carnival that is to start the next day. Will's father sees a sign in a store window that advertises Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show, and Jim and Will find a similar handbill in the street. The boys are excited that a carnival has come so late in the year, but Charles Halloway has a bad feeling about it.
The boys run out to watch the carnival arrive at three in the morning, and they run home after seeing the tents get set up mysteriously. Mr. Halloway talks about this time of night as "soul's midnight", when men are closest to death, locked in the depths of despair. The boys go the next day to explore the carnival and they help their seventh grade teacher, Miss Foley, who is dazed after visiting the Mirror Maze. Later in the day, Jim goes into the maze and Will has to pull him out. Jim insists on coming back that night, and Will agrees, but then they bump into the lightning-rod salesman's bag and they realize that they must stay to learn what has happened to the man. Finally, after searching all of the rides, they go up to a carousel that is supposedly broken. A huge man grabs Will and Jim and tells them that the merry-go-round is broken. Another man tells him to put them down, introduces himself as Mr. Dark and tells them the other man's name is Mr. Cooger. Mr. Dark is the Illustrated Man, covered in tattoos, and he pays attention only to Jim, who is enthralled by what he sees. Mr. Dark tells them to come back the next day and the boys run off but then hide and wait. What they see is unbelievable. Mr. Cooger rides backwards on the carousel (while the music plays backwards), and when he steps off of it, he is twelve years old.
They follow Mr. Cooger to Miss Foley's house, where he pretends to be her nephew who got lost earlier at the carnival. Jim tries to meet up with Mr. Cooger because he wants to ride the carousel, but Will stops him and he takes off toward the carnival. When Will reaches the carnival Mr. Cooger is on the carousel, growing older, and Jim is about to join him. Will knocks the switch on the carousel and it flies out of control, spinning rapidly forward. Mr. Cooger ages over 100 years before the carousel stops, and Jim and Will take off. They return with the police, but Mr. Cooger is nowhere to be found. Inside the tents he is set up as a new act, Mr. Electrico, a man they run electricity through. Mr. Dark tells the boys to come back to the carnival the next day. Will tries to keep his father out of the situation, promising him that he will tell all soon. The night the Dust Witch comes in her balloon to find Jim and Will, but Will outsmarts her and destroys her balloon.
The next day the boys see a young girl crying and realize after talking to her that it is Miss Foley. They go to her house but when they come back their path is blocked by a parade. The carnival is out searching the streets for them. They hide and the little girl is gone. Will's father sees them hiding in an iron grille in the sidewalk and the boys convince him to keep quiet because the Illustrated Man comes to talk to him. Will's father pretends not to know the two boys whose faces are tattooed on the man's hand, and then when the Witch comes and begins to sense the boys' presence he blows cigar smoke at her, choking her and forcing her to leave. Mr. Dark asks Charles Halloway for his name, and Will's father tells him where he works and who he is. Later that night Will and Jim meet Mr. Halloway at the library, where he has done research and found out some things about the carnival. He tells them that their best weapon is love, but they are not sure how to fight. Then Mr. Dark shows up and the boys hide. He finds them and then crushes Charles Halloway's hand when the man tries to fight him. The Dust Witch casts spells on the boys to make them easy to handle and goes to stop Mr. Halloway's heart. Just before he dies, Charles Halloway looks at the Witch and begins to laugh hysterically, and his laughter wounds her deeply and drives her away. He goes to the carnival to get the boys.
At the carnival Charles Halloway outsmarts Mr. Dark, finds his son, kills the Witch, and destroys the Mirror Maze in a matter of minutes, all through the use of laughter and happiness. Then he and Will search for Jim. Mr. Cooger turns to dust and blows away before he can be saved at the carousel, and Jim moves towards the merry-go-round. Jim starts to ride and Will tries to stop him. They both end up going for a ride before Will jumps off and rips Jim away from the machine. Jim falls into a stupor, close to death. A child comes begging them to help him, but Mr. Halloway recognizes the boy as Mr. Dark. He holds the boy tight and kills him with affection, because Mr. Dark cannot survive in such close cont
“To late, I found you can't wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.”Charles Halloway
“What was there about the boys that made him believe the simplest word they whispered up through the grille? Fear itself was proof here, and he had seen enough fear in his life to know it, like the smell from a butcher's shop in summer twilight.”
“Two lines of Shakespeare said it. He should write them in the middle of the clock of books, to fix the heart of his apprehension: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.”
“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 place where the nice old lady, Miss Watriss, purple-stamped your books, but down off a way were Tibet, 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 spices . . .”
“Boy!" yelled Will. "Folks run like they thought the storm was here!" "It is!" shouted Jim. "Us!”Will and Jim
“Why haven't I stopped to think and smell the last thirty years?”Mr. Crosetti
“The trouble with Jim was he looked at the world and could not look away. And when you never look away all your life, by the time you are thirteen you have done twenty years taking in the laundry of the world. Will Halloway, it was in him young to always look just beyond, over or to one side. So at thirteen he had saved up only six years of staring.”
“It was in deed a time between, one second their thought all brambled airedale, the next all silken slumbering cat....It was a time after first discoveries but not last ones. It was wanting to know everything and wanting to know nothing.”
“Dad," said Will, his voice very faint. "Are you a good person?" "To you and your mother, yes, I try. But no man's hero to himself. I've lived with me a lifetime, Will. I know everything worth knowing about myself—”Will and his father
“Now, look, since when did you think being good meant being happy?" "Since always." "Since now learn other wise. Sometimes the man who looks happiest in town, with the biggest smile, is the one carrying the biggest load of sin. There are smiles and smiles; learn to tell the dark variety from the light....Look at me: married at thirty-nine, Will, thirty-nine! But I was so busy wrestling myself two falls out of three, I figured I couldn't marry until I had licked myself good and forever. Too late, I found you can't wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else. So at last I looked up from my great self-wrestling match one night when your mother came to the library for a book, and got me instead. And I saw then and there you take a man half-bad and a woman half-bad and put their two good halves together and you got one human all good to share between.”Charles Halloway
“The library, then, at seven-fifteen, seven-thirty, seven-forty-five of a Sunday night, cloistered with great drifts of silence and transfixed avalanche of books poised like the cuneiform stones of eternity on shelves, so high the unseen snows of time fell all year there.”
“. . . . they had hid in the highest trees they could climb and got bored and boredom was worse than fear so they came down . . . .”
“He gathered the boy somewhat closer and thought, Evil has only the power that we give it. I give you nothing. I take back.”
“Sometimes the man who looks happiest in town, with the biggest smile, is the one carrying the biggest load of sin. There are smiles and smiles; learn to tell the dark variety from the light. The seal-barker, the laugh-shouter, half the time he's covering up. He's had his fun and he's guilty. And men do love sin, Will, oh how they love it, never doubt, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and smells. Times come when troughs, not tables, suit our appetites. Hear a man too loudly praising others, and look to wonder if he didn't just get up from the sty. On the other hand, that unhappy, pale, put-upon man walking by, who looks all guilt and sin, why, often that's your good man with a capital G, Will. For being good is a fearful occupation; men strain at it and sometimes break in two.”Charles Halloway
“Because, sometimes good has weapons and evil none. Sometimes tricks fail. Sometimes people can't be picked off, led to deadfalls.”Charles Halloway
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