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Free Study Guide for Something Wicked This Way Comes

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As the boys are running home from the library, the clock strikes nine, and Will stops. The narrator mentions that at the first stroke of nine on this Friday evening, the shops are busy, but by the last stroke of nine, all of the shops are closed. Will says that folks run as if they are afraid of a storm; Jim replies that he and Will are the storm they're afraid of. As the boys round the corner, Mr. Tetley, the cigar store proprietor startles them. Mr. Tetley freezes and quietly listens to the wind, not responding the boys' hail. As they round the next block, Mr. Crosetti, the barber, also freezes as he leaves his shop. They notice a tear running down Crosetti's left cheek and stop to check on him. He suggests that the tear is a product of a memory triggered by a smell: the memory of cotton candy. He further mentions that he hasn't stopped to smell cotton candy in the last thirty years and that only circuses sell it. Will agrees with him, and as Crosetti goes to turn off the barber poll, Will begs him not to. Crosetti, recognizing the curiosity that the pole evokes in youth, leaves it on. They bid him good night and run on their way. As they leave, the faint smell of licorice and cotton candy lingers in the air.


The theme of lost youth is once again demonstrated throughout this chapter. Both Tetley and Crosetti seem to "hear" their youth calling them from a distance. Furthermore, the difference between Will and Jim is again highlighted when Will shivers and hopes he is under several blankets when the promised lighting begins to strike on that evening. Will also recognizes that Crosetti, an adult, is far too busy to pay attention to a simple smell like cotton candy. Will begging Crosetti to leave the mysterious barber pole on throughout the night is only further evidence of his sense of youth, mystery, and optimism. The fact that Crosetti leaves it on again highlights an envy of optimism and youth.

The passage of time in this chapter further symbolizes the profound difference between youth and age. Will is slowly beginning to notice how quickly time passes and how important time is to adults, as all of their shops are closed by the ninth stroke of the clock.



Charles Halloway leaves the saloon, but as he does, a premonition seems to overtake him. He seems to believe that the premonition could have been caused by a number of things, but he settles on the idea that it was caused by a man he saw hanging posters as he was in the saloon. The man was in a dark suit. He had paper in one hand and a bucket of paste in another. As he brushed the paste, he whistled a Christmas tune. Halloway shivers at the emotional baggage of the tune.

As Halloway leaves the saloon, the whistling man begins working silently, and he vanishes into an empty shop with his work. Halloway follows him, watching his work. As Halloway arrives at the other side of the street, the mysterious man steps out of the shop entrance and gestures to Halloway. Halloway notices that the man's palm is covered with "fine, black silken hair." The man departs, leaving Halloway to stare into the window of the empty shop where two sawhorses stand next to each other, with a block of ice, six feet long resting on them. One side of the window displays a placard that tells of a show. The placard suggests the block of ice is one of the many attractions: the most beautiful woman in the world.

The text allows Halloway to travel back in his memories, harkening back to the traveling magicians' shows of his childhood. He dismisses the thought, thinking the ice is simply frozen river water, but at a glance, he allows himself to believe she (the most beautiful woman in the world) exists in the ice. He wants to leave, but his curiosity forces him to stare at the block of ice in the window for some time.


Halloway's premonitions, capped by the strange man whistling a tune that saddens Halloway, furthers the sense of foreboding the novel has already created. The whistled tune, Longfellow’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” was written in 1864 during the American Civil War. It reflects the despair and hopelessness brought about by the war. It creates sadness in Halloway. The block of ice between the sawhorses boosts the sense of lost youth. He desperately wants to believe the lost mermaid of the magic shows of his youth lies within that block of ice, but his conscience tells him she does not exist. Despite the warning, however, Halloway stares at the mysterious ice for some time.


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