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Free Study Guide for Something Wicked This Way Comes

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This chapter opens with the comment that Jim only reads books of adventure, intrigue and fantasy. As he reads and discusses these books with Will, Will takes it in, following Jim's lead.

After the boys nailed the lightning rod to the roof, an act of cowardice in Jim's mind, they literally run to the library. As they reach the library door, Jim stops, thinking he has heard music on the horizon. Will doesn't hear it, and after a minute or so, Jim shrugs and heads in. The boys consider the depths of the library as an entire world filled with faroff places, mystery, and adventure.

While making their way through the library, Will sees his father, Charles William Halloway, the library custodian. Will and his father, as always, are surprised to see each other. As Charles helps Jim look for books on dinosaurs, Will realizes that his dad looks like him if one was looking through a smashed mirror. Will thinks back on the times he has awoken in the early hours of the morning, looked out the window, and seen the lights of library still on, indicating that Charles is still inside reading. Charles then shakes Will back to reality by asking if he wants a "whitehat" book or a "black-hat" book. The boys ask him to explain, and Charles attempts to describe the difference in people's attitudes. Charles suggests that Jim is looking for black-hat books - books dealing with excitement and evil --while Will tends toward books about goodness and peace. Jim asks about the color of Charles' hat. It makes Charles a bit uneasy to know that Jim can't tell. As a whole, the commentary goes over the boy's heads, and Will settles for a Jules Verne story. The boys check out their books, and as they leave, they notice a clear sky. Jim gets a bit upset, worried that he won't get a storm. Will reassures him, suggesting that the goose bumps on his arm imply there will be a storm. The boys run for home.


Bradbury's early commentary on books further reveals the nature of youth and boyhood. The text asks the reader to recall a time when books held a world of adventure not possible for the average person. Jim's love for all things related to adventure, espionage, intrigue, and crime is reflected in his literary choices. However, as Jim breathes these stories to Will, Will inhales Jim's passions. This furthers the contrast of the boys - indicating that Jim is the leader, and Will is the follower. The difference is only furthered when Charles suggests Jim wears a black-hat, and Will wears a white-hat. Charles' idea that black-hats symbolize all things connected to evil, and white-hats appear to be the opposite allows readers to see a good versus evil theme developing. It is strongly hinted that though Charles himself wears a white-hat, he once held many of the same attitudes and ideas that Jim does.

The idea that the boys run everywhere they go continues the theme of innocence and youth. Bradbury suggests that their style of running isn't a race, it is simply for pleasure - an indulgence they boys always hope to have.

Charles William Halloway is only the second adult we've met in the novel. He, like most of the other adult characters in the text, envies the boys for their youth. He also regards his age as a handicap, a theme that will continue through the novel. The fact that Will wakes up during the night and sees his father's lights on at the library indicates that Charles spends large amounts of time alone dealing with his regrets.

The music Jim hears as they reach the library door foreshadows the evil that will come in future chapters. The fact that Will can't hear the music highlights the continuing difference between the boys.



As the boys leave the library, Charles feels a bit of resentment for his age and wishes he had the ability and the youth to run with the boys. As he thinks of them, he contemplates why the boys run. Will seems to run for the sake of running. Jim runs because there's something ahead of him that he desires to catch. At any rate, Charles notices that the boys run, awkwardly, together. Charles further considers the differences between Jim and Will. Charles suggests that Jim "eats darkness," while Will is light and goodness itself. He mediates on the fact that while Will might wonder why he gets hurt, Jim runs and ducks from the thing that hurt him because he knows, inevitably, something dangerous will come for him. Charles' further internal discussion of the boys reveals that Jim runs slower to keep Will with him. Will runs faster to keep up with Jim.

After Charles locks up the library, he stops by the saloon for a drink. He hears a fellow patron discussing the idea that alcohol is the elixir of life. When the bartender asks Charles if he wants something, Charles suggests the drink is not for him, but for the child inside him.


This chapter essentially defines the thematic differences between Jim and Will. Charles' thoughts give words to the allusions about the boys, their attitudes, and their actions the text has already made. This chapter furthers the theme of good versus evil, and how the boys fit with that theme by proposing that Jim's darkness and Will's light makes them very different people who seem to fit together somehow.

Chapter three also distances the theme of lost youth. Charles has known people like Will and Jim throughout his life. He instinctively knows their wants and needs. He also knows that his own youth is gone, and he deeply regrets that fact.


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