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Free Study Guide for Something Wicked This Way Comes

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Major Themes

Loss of childhood innocence

Will and Jim, on the verge of maturity, also reach psychological maturity when they realize that things, like the carnival, contain hidden evils.

Lack of contentment with life

Several characters in the book, notably Jim, Charles, and Miss Foley, are not happy with who and what they are. That lack of contentment leads to regret, and eventually to entanglement with the evils of the carnival.

Evil can only be defeated through true joy

Cooger and Dark are only defeated through joy and happiness. Furthermore, Jim is only revived through that same joy and happiness.

Minor Themes

Most adults pay attention to little of what is around them

Several adults in the book, like Tetley, the police officers, and occasionally even Charles, don’t pay attention to the events around them. As a result, the boys are nearly left to fight an ultimate battle of good and evil without adult guidance.

There is senselessness in intelligence without action

Charles spends most of his life reading and talking to himself without acting on his thoughts and feelings. It is possible he could have saved Will and Jim from the carnival far earlier if he’d been able to make peace with himself and act on his thoughts.


The mood of the novel is sinister, suspenseful, and dark. The suspense begins when Tom Fury, a lightning rod salesman, predicts a storm and gives the boys a free lightning rod. The arrival of the carnival only further darkens the mood. The mood becomes sinister when the boys discover Cooger’s carousel. These three moods intertwine throughout the rest of the story.

Ray Bradbury - BIOGRAPHY

Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on August 22, 1920. The third son of Leonard Spaulding Bradbury and Esthere Marie Moberg Bradbury, Ray showed promise as a writer at the early age of eleven when he began writing short stories on butcher paper. As a child, he was fascinated by magic and fantasy and spent many an afternoon dreaming that he would grow up to be a magician himself. Bradbury’s family moved between Waukegan and Tucson, Arizona, several times. In 1934, the family moved to Los Angeles, California, where Bradbury attended high school and involved himself in the drama club. He planned to become an actor, but a few of his teachers recognized his talent and encouraged him to begin writing. Bradbury graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1938 and did not attend further formal education. From 1938 to 1942, Bradbury sold newspapers on Los Angeles street corners. He furthered his education by spending his evenings in the library and at his typewriter.

Bradbury’s first short story, “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma,” was printed in 1938 in an amateur fan magazine Imagination. He went on to publish his own magazine, called Futuria Fantasia, writing most of the content himself. Then in 1941, he published a short story called “Pendulum", which appeared in a 1941 issue of Super Science Stories, for which he received his first income. During the 1940’s, he dedicated himself to writing short stories and developed his own distinct literary style. “The Lake,” a 1942 published short story, was the first time Bradbury demonstrated his unique writing style. Most of his subject matter was fantastic, as seen in such stories as “Uncle Einar,” a tale about a man with green wings. “The Big Black and White Game,” published in 1945, earned Bradbury a name for himself as a short story writer. On September 27, 1947, Bradbury married Marguerite “Maggie” McClure. In 1947, he published a collection of his short stories entitled Dark Carnival.

“Hollerbochen’s Dilemma,” was his first short story publication. In 1938, it was printed in the amateur fan magazine Imagination. The next year, Bradbury printed four issues of his own fan magazine, Futuria Fantasia, writing most of the content himself. His first paid publication, the short story “Pendulum” appeared in a 1941 issue of Super Science Stories. In 1945, Bradbury’s “The Big Black and White Game” was chosen for publication in Best American Short Stories. Dark Carnival, Bradbury’s first short story collection, was published in late 1947. The publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, established Bradbury’s reputation as a leading science fiction writer.. Fahrenheit 451, another of Bradbury’s most important texts, appeared in 1953. Like The Martian Chronicles, it is a piece of social commentary and an interesting story. It is set in the future where the government has banned writing. A character resists the government ban, and eventually joins a group of rebels who memorize major works of literature. Bradbury’s work has earned him numerous awards and honors including the O. Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, the Aviation-Space Writer’s Association Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. Icarus Montgolfier Wright, his animated film about the history of flight, was nominated for an academy award, and he won an Emmy for the teleplay of The Halloween Tree.

In 1950, Bradbury turned his attention solely to science fiction, although most of his writing had an element of social commentary in it. The Martian Chronicles reflected the prevailing anxieties of post-war America and the fascination that mankind had developed for discovering life on other planets. The book deals with the human attempt to colonize Mars and the effects of that colonization. It is as much a work of social criticism as it is a fascinating piece of science fiction. The book was very popular and gained Bradbury the reputation as a leading writer of science fiction in America.

Bradbury continued to write science fiction novels and is best known for Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Many of his books have been made into major motion pictures and several have won him awards, including the O’Henry Memorial Award, the Benjamin Franklin award, the Aviation Space Writers Association Award, and the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. He was also awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Aside from his literary achievements, Bradbury served as the consultant for United States pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1964. In the early nineties, he contributed to the conception of the Orbitron space ride at Euro Disney, France. Bradbury and his wife continue to live in Los Angeles where he still writes daily and occasionally lectures on science fiction.

Bradbury has used several pseudonyms throughout his career including Doug Rogers, Ron Reynolds, Guy Amory, Omega, Anthony Corvais, E. Cunningham, Brian Eldred, Cecil Claybourne Cunningham, D. Lerium Tremaine, Edward Banks, D. R. Banet, William Elliott, Brett Sterling, Leonard Spaulding, Leonard Douglas, and Douglas Spaulding.

Ray Bradbury’s Works

Dark Carnival (1947)
The Martian Chronicles (1950)
The Illustrated Man
No Man is an Island (1952)
Fahrenheit 451
The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953)
The October Country
Switch On the Night (1955)
Dandelion Wine (1957)
Sun and Shadow
A Medicine For Melancholy (1960)
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Essence of Creative Writing: Letters to a Young Aspiring Author
R Is For Rocket (1962)
The Anthem Sprinters And Other Antics (1963)
The Machineries of Joy
The Pedestrian (1964)
The Autumn People
A Device Out of Time
The Vintage Bradbury
The Day It Rained Forever: A Comedy in One Act
The Pedestrian: A Fantasy in One Act
S Is For Space (1966)
Tomorrow Midnight


This text was first published in 1962, and it is highly possible that some of the ideas were created from Bradbury’s childhood experiences. Many of the actions the boys engage in have a very nineteen fifties feel to them, and it is clear that Main Street America does not look as it does in present society. The book was originally a series of short stories that evolved into a novel over the course of a few years. In 1983, Disney made the story into a film.


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