Something Wicked This Way Comes
by Ray Bradbury
Where It All Goes Down
Green Town, IL, some time around the 1950s, at the end of October
Green Town, Illinois seems like such a peaceful small town, the kind of place where no one locks their doors and boys play innocent little pranks. Jim and Will run around with pockets full of kite-string, frog-eyes, kitchen matches, and dead insects. They climb trees, pick fruit, and whistle with their hands in their pockets. Their lives of boyhood innocence and fun are enabled by the type of town they live in – the type of town where the barber knows your name and you run into your seventh-grade teacher at the carnival.
Oh, right. The carnival. We think it's pretty significant that the carnival sets up camp on the outskirts of town, reinforcing its position as an intruder into the lives of Green Town's citizens. For the boys, especially, their town has always been a place of safety, a place they know well. They are shocked when the carnival trespasses: "'The carnival!' gasped Jim. 'We never thought. It can right come into town. A parade!'" (32.101). While most of the townspeople are thoroughly entertained by the carnival and its assortment of exotic freaks, Will and Jim have seen its true nature and are horrified.
Lastly, there's the month of October. We're never going to look at autumn the same way again. Remember, Charles Halloway describes autumn people like this: "They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth" (39.39). As autumn people, Cooger and Dark always choose to visit Green Town, Illinois in the month of October. The horror and nightmares they bring are just in time for Halloween, after all. Human storms, flesh-eating, and all that good stuff aside, October is the birthday month of Jim and Will, which means they are close to being fourteen-year-olds. Much of the novel's coming-of-age focuses on the friction between friends when one wants to grow up faster than the other one, and what better catalyst is there than an upcoming birthday?
Check out "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for more on summer vs. autumn.