Something Wicked This Way Comes: Laughter is the World’s Greatest Cure

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“So in sum, what are we? We are the creatures that know and know too much. That leaves us with such a burden again we have a choice, to laugh or cry.” ― Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury wrote Something Wicked This Way Comes in 1962. It is a dark fantasy about how a carnival operates on the fear of its customers. Many attractions at the carnival symbolized deeper meaning into how it truly operates. The symbols distinctively illustrate acceptance leads to happiness and happiness then defeats evil. Three symbols include the Dust Witch, the mirror maze and the carousel. One of the main carnival influencers is the Dust Witch.

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The Dust Witch clearly shows the theme that acceptance leads to happiness which defeats evil. The Dust Witch is described as having ‘swamp breath, stitch-wrinkled eyes, mummy-linen ears, and a dry-rivulet river-sand brow’ (pg.229). She also is capable of possessing supernatural powers. Her powers include, the ability to feel and control emotions and control the bodily functions of humans. In the library, The Dust Witch tries to control and then kill Charles. The witch accuses Charles of being an old man and that then causes Charles to feel fear again. Charles cannot think or move because of pain Mr. Dark has caused him, he then lets the Witch take control of him. Charles wants his death to be quick, so the Dust Witch choses to stop his heart. The Witch slows his heart more and more until he is losing his breath. Charles then decides to take a glance at her before he knows he will die. Charles allows her to gain control of him because he is accepting his relevance of being an old man. He now understands why she perceives him as old. He begins to laugh uncontrollably at the witch’s appearance and the witch recoils in fear trying to regain control. Charles Halloway laughs at just such an odd occurrence that he cannot seem to control himself. He accepts the reason to die and then follows up with the fact that the Dust Witch claiming his life only by herself is all itself is just a joke and then laughs. The Dust Witch illustrates a glimpse of what could be an eerie resemblance to a reaper. Charles laughs at this because he now understands why death, in general, is a joke. The witch jumps back in fear and is hurt by his happiness causing her to run away. Charles learns that his acceptance leads to his laughter which overall terminates the witch’s ability to control him. “‘Old man, hear you breathing.’ She on his tide, let her body be summoned by every sibilant hiss of his pain. ‘Old man feel your hurt…’ He saw her fingers working at the air, his face, his body, the heart within his body, and the soul within the heart. Never in his life had he focused so nearly to a person, as if she were a puzzle, which once touched together might show life’s greatest secret… Charles Halloway snorted. Faintly, he giggled. He caught this. Why? Why am I… giggling… at such a time!? The Witch pulled back the merest quarter inch as if some strange but hidden electric light socket, touched with wet whorl, gave shock. Charles Halloway saw but did not see her flinch, sensed but seemed in no way to consider her withdrawal, for almost immediately, seizing the initiative, she flung herself forward, not touching, but mutely gesticulating at his chest as one might try to spell an antique clock pendulum. Moments later, she managed to cram herself through the front door, which slammed” (pg. 229-230). Charles accepts her hideous appearance and uncanniness to death and figures out that by laughing she loses control. By laughing at such an odd time, the reader can only infer that Charles is truly happy on the inside and the witch cannot change that. She is forced to run away because of his epiphanic moment. Not only does the Dust Witch symbolizes an eerie idea of death, but Charles learns how to kill her with his inner happiness of why she is just a joke. 

The Mirror Maze clearly demonstrates the theme that acceptance leads to happiness which defeats evil. The Mirror Maze shows and offers temptations that the character can only believe to be their worst fears. Will explains this attraction by saying that someone will be lost in an ever-flowing stream of water and they might just be drifted out to where no one can save them. Describing the Mirror Maze as water refers to the endless possibilities of what one might find in there. It can either be a calm and safe trip or a rough, belligerent trip. Charles and Will both find themselves in the middle of the Mirror Maze trying to find Jim. Soon though, Charles sees himself in the mirror and each reflection is older than the one before. The lights go out. Charles is in despair and wants the lights to stay out so that he does not have to see the reflections, but Will lights a match and tells his father that he loves him. Charles looks into his reflections and then lets out an ecstatic laugh. The mirrors then shatter. At the very first chapters of the book, Charles was not a courageous charter and did not accept himself for who he really was. However, when Will told him that he loved him and accepted him the way he was, Charles began to believe in his self. Because of this, Charles was able to laugh at the mirror maze and was able to destroy it. “Every glass threw javelins of light which invisibly pierced, sank deep, found heart, soul, lungs, to frost the veins, cut nerves, send Will to ruin, paralyze and then kick-football heart… At which Charles Halloway opened his eyes and saw himself and the others like himself and his son behind holding him, the flame trembling, the tears trembling on his face, and suddenly, as before, the image of the Witch, the memory of the library, defeat for one, victory for another, swam before him, mixed with sound of rifle, shot, flight of marked bullet, surge of fleeing crowd… and let the loudest sound of all free. The Witch, if she were alive, would have known that sound, and died again” (pg. 258). Once again Charles shows the capacity to overcome his fear of becoming and being old destroys the sardonic glass. Charles accepts how old he truly is and does not care how the world perceives him as himself and his son. He shatters the maze by knowing it is all just a joke once again and then worries about the bigger issue. Destroying the carnival.

The carousel evidently demonstrates the theme that acceptance leads to happiness which defeats evil. The carousel represents temptation and the need to become one’s desired age. When Jim runs out of the Mirror Maze, he ultimately gave into temptation. By running toward the carousel, Will runs after him to try and stop his wrong doing. Jim latches on to the carousel by only one hand and Will tries to pull him off with the other. They both try to bring each other to their own side and Will accidently falls onto the machine. They both spin about half a circle around, and then Will finally jumps off grasping onto Jims hand. Jim yells at Will trying to get back onto the machine but then plummets to the ground and is now motionless. As Jim is attracted to the carousel so is his friend trying to stop him. The carousel shows temptation by making Jim have no other choice but to go on it even if Will tries to prevent him from doing so. After they pull Jim off the carousel, they try to bring him back. They begin to sing and Will starts to laugh, and making his father laugh along with him. In this moments Jim comes back. Jim joins in and they all laugh happily together. Charles explains to them that they must destroy the carousel because if they do not they will be tempted to go back. He destroys it with a wrench and they are all now again happy. By accepting the consequences of returning back, Charles and the boys both understand why they must destroy it. When they are able to destroy the carousel both Charles and Jim feel relieved about not being tempted into going back on the ride to fulfill their wishes of their desired age. As they have now accepted this, they are now happy and jubilantly go back home. “Charles Halloway stepped back into the machinery of the merry-go-round, found a wrench, and knocked the flywheels and cogs to pieces. Then he took the boys out and he hit the control box one or two times until it broke and scattered fitful lightnings. Will laughing and singing and Jim giving answer line by line, as they breasted the waves of dry stubble toward a town where they might live another few years across from each other. Then, as the moon watched, the three of them together left the wilderness behind and walked into the town” (pg. 290). As the boys both laugh and sing they learn that their acceptance leads to their happiness causing them to gleefully walk away in the distance. Without them knowing that overcoming their temptations would result in defeating evil, then they never would have been able to walk away. The way the symbols illustrate the idea that acceptance then leads to happiness which overall destroys negativity, is represented throughout a lot of objects and characters in the book. The Dust Witch represents and symbolizes death, making her desperately need to feed off of people’s fear of dying and becoming older. The Mirror Maze symbolizes a person’s greatest fear and how they should constantly feel the need to fix it. Finally, the carousel symbolizes one’s inner temptations that they should give in to them. The impact that the symbols have on the characters throughout the novel is commonly represented through their actions and thoughts.

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