Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Clock imagery in Something Wicked This Way Comes is both literal and figurative. In a literal sense, the town clock is a major figure in the text. It is constantly striking the different hours of the day, letting us know exactly when we are in the novel: seven o'clock, nine o'clock, midnight, whatever the case may be. (It also has a brief cameo in its own right when Mr. Halloway pretends to talk to the clock when he is actually communicating with the boys.) But why exactly do we always need to know what time it is in the novel? What's the big deal here?
As we talk about in "Themes," different times of day have different meanings in Something Wicked This Way Comes. Evening is when danger and evil lurk, whereas daytime is pleasant and safe. Exact hours are critical, too. Three in the morning, Charles Halloway muses, is the hour when "the soul is out" and "you are the nearest to dead you'll ever be save dying" (14.12). It's a horrible time of day, so it's little wonder that the carnival chooses exactly that moment to roll into town. Think also about Will and Jim, born on either side of midnight, a miniscule difference that determines so much of their personalities. (See "Character Analysis" for more.)
Clocks are also used figuratively in Something Wicked This Way Comes. Mr. Halloway describes women as "strange wonderful clocks" (14.20), and Mr. Dark directs the Dust Witch to stop "the janitor's clock" (43.77). People, then, are thought of in the novel as clocks. This brings us to that carousel, which really does treat the people of the town like clocks – it actually winds them forward or backward. But as you would know if you've ever took a screwdriver to your family TV to find out how it worked, messing with internal mechanisms is tricky business. The carousel tends to engender more horror than pleasure in the people it alters. Thinking more on people as clocks, we can't help but notice that it really ties people to Time, as in, clocks are always running forward at a regular speed. The carousel interrupts that mechanism and creates great psychic trauma.