As we near the end of summer, I begin to notice the tinges of Fall on each breeze and fluttering leaf. Frankly, I can't wait--tweeds, cardigans, bare trees, and Halloween! All the lovely things that make my skin prickle with excitement. And, to top off my excitement, I just finished reading Ray Bradbury's exquisite novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. The book, set, as we are right now, between the end of Summer and the coming of Fall, tingles with schoolboy thrills and excitements, but it also resonates with comfort and wisdom for facing whatever life presents.
The basic plot is that an eery carnival arrives at a small Midwestern town at three o'clock in the morning. Two boys begin noticing strange things about it, people disappearing, a mirror maze that shows you yourself when you are old, a carousel that takes away or gives years to your body as you ride forward or backward.
But, there is so much more to the novel than a melange of freaks. In Something Wicked, Bradbury draws attention to the unique position of human beings, "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. No other animal does either. We do both, depending on the season and the need" (208). The "season and the need"--the entire novel seems to pivot around these two words. Throughout Something Wicked, Bradbury emphasizes how everything comes at its proper time; we are boys when we should be boys, and men when we should be men. To seek to change this is vain. If we actually could change this, we would cease to be human... "finally you wind up owner of the carousel, keeper of the freaks... proprietor for some small part of eternity of the traveling dark carnival shows" (305). But, how does one protect oneself from the vain desire for youth, from ennui, and from self-loathing as the years slowly peal away your ability to accomplish your dreams? Laughter. "Death's funny, God damn it!" (300).