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Free Study Guide for Something Wicked This Way Comes

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Will, lying in bed, is glad to be back in the safety of his home. He can hear his father quietly talking to himself, repeating the word 'three.' Will realizes that 'three' was the time the train arrived, and he desperately hopes his father did not follow the train as he and Jim had. Will is, however, unsure as to why he is frightened at the thought of his father having followed the train.

Charles perches on the side of his bed and once again considers why the train might have arrived at three in the morning. He realizes that at three in the morning, women are asleep, but middle-aged men are feeling a complete sense of hopelessness. Charles goes on to consider that three a.m. is the time, according to doctors, when you're the nearest to dead, when your soul has left your body. Charles slowly lets his imagination go crazy with thoughts of pain and death. He forces his thoughts to stop, and his wife murmurs his name in her sleep and smiles. He considers why she has reason to smile and immediately thinks of Will. He feels that despite the fact that Will is his son too, he can never know the bond and sense of peace that children bring their mothers. He senses that no man can understand the sense of shaping time women feel through their children. As a result, men have a mean sensation that causes sleeplessness, particularly at three a.m. His wife begins to wake and asks him if he's okay. He, however, does not answer because he can't tell her how he is.


Will's sense of safety in his home is once again shattered by his father and thoughts of the carnival. Will knows something is evil about the carnival, but he doesn't understand it. He first felt it when Charles burned the carnival advertisement, and it is growing. Charles' thoughts of why the carnival arrives at three a.m. highlights the sense of hopelessness he representatively feels for all middle aged men who ceaselessly wish to be something they can't: youthful. His inability to answer his wife at the end of the chapter again represents his sheer inability to communicate any of his feelings, something that will cause problems for both he and Will as the novel continues.



The chapter opens with the arrival of morning. Will and Jim lean out their windows. Will asks Jim if the events of the previous night actually happened, as they can find no sign of the shadows the two of them had felt on the previous night. The boys rush to eat breakfast, and run out to the carnival. Upon arrival, though, they find it to be a typical carnival. Will mentions this, but Jim firmly believes in the events of the night before. They search the carnival grounds, desperately looking for clues to the previous night's events, but they find nothing. Instead of finding hints to the mysteries of the night before, the boys run into their seventh grade teacher, Miss Foley. They interrogate her to see if she heard the steam whistle or the calliope, but she says she's come to the carnival early in search of her nephew who is visiting her for two weeks. While searching for him, she intends to look at the mirror maze. Will immediately discourages her. Both Miss Foley and Jim want to know why Will is against the mirror maze, and Will can offer little in the way of an excuse. She heads toward the maze, and Jim demands to know what Will was talking about. As Will tries to explain that the mirrors are the only thing that offer the same shadowy sensation as the previous night, Jim realizes that his hair is standing on end, a fearful sensation.

They look up and see Miss Foley in the mirror maze. The boys wave to her, but she looks at the mirrors in confusion and fear. She runs into the mirrors, trying to escape the maze, and screams for help. Jim and Will plunge in to save her, but they have some difficulty finding her in the cold glass. Miss Foley grabs Will, pulling him further under. Jim, though, grabs Will, and pulls both Will and Miss Foley into the sunlight. Miss Foley emerges, thanking them profusely, telling them they must save a little girl who is also lost in the maze. Jim and Will think she's crazy, and they try to tell her no one entered the maze after she did. She is, however, insistent that they must save the lost girl. They ask her the description of the little girl, and she can only say that the little girl seemed to be the mirror image of herself years ago. Miss Foley leaves, and Will declares that he is leaving. Jim calls him a chicken, and Will agrees to stay until sundown so they can attempt to uncover the mysteries of the previous night.


Will, again, senses the carnival is evil, particularly the mirror maze, an idea that was hinted at in previous chapters. Jim also seems to have the same sensation, but he carefully ignores his, searching for adventure. Will tries to warn others about his impression, but because he cannot explain it in definite terms, neither Jim nor Miss Foley listen to him. This is the first time we see the theme of the lack of wisdom with age.

The ever-present theme of lost youth, though, again presents itself through the character of Miss Foley. She mentions that she loves carnivals, and it is rather obvious that she misses her youth. She sees a mirror image of that youth in the mirror maze. She is desperate to rescue it, but the bounds of the maze, and time itself, prevent that rescue. She leaves feeling rather empty and depressed.

Jim is again present in a leadership role. Acting on his premonitions, Will tries to leave. Jim, however, verbally requires him to stay by insulting him. Will, of course, values his friendship more than his premonitions.


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