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Free Study Guide for Something Wicked This Way Comes

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CHAPTER 20

Summary

Will and Jim both arrive home, only to be sent upstairs hungry (as punishment) three minutes later at 7:03. Will stands by his door, considering whether or not to call Miss Foley, as a warning. He realizes, though, that calling her would do little good because he has no idea how to warn her, and she wouldn't believe him anyway. The boys know it's too early to whisper to each other through their window, so they both lie on their beds, eating chunks of chocolate they find in their mattresses. At ten, Will's dad rattles the knob and unlocks the door. Will is desperate for his father to come in, but he knows he won’t. Will reflects on the fact that he never comes in to listen to Will. Charles, speaking softly through the door, says only "Be careful." Will's mother, upset with the feeble advice Charles has just given Will, gets angry. Charles, though, reiterates the fact that he feels unable to connect with Will because of the age difference. Charles leaves angry, and Will watches him through the window. He feels the need to cry out to his father, but he quietly watches the street until his father is finally gone. When the street seems empty, he considers the fact that his father is using the library as a place to hide from all of the problems of the world. He reconsiders his father's advice, and wonders for a moment if Charles could know of the carnival. He immediately decides that it is not possible. Will tosses a marble at Jim’s window four times, waiting for a response. Jim, uncharacteristically, doesn't respond. Will lays back on his bed disgusted. He knows they must do something for Miss Foley tonight.

Notes

The similarities between Jim and Will are again highlighted at the start of the chapter. Their parents are similarly angry, and they both receive the same punishment. They even sulk the same way in their rooms. Despite all of the differences that have been highlighted in the previous chapters, the boys still have undeniably similar qualities.

Will feels trapped throughout this chapter. He senses that he must warn Miss Foley, but there is little he can do. He also feels trapped by the communication barrier between he and his father. Will wants and needs to connect with Charles, but he is wholly emotionally unavailable for Will. Will's father is incapable of dealing with Will, so he hides in the library, lost in the books.


Jim's awkward behavior increases the overall sinister feeling. He has become unresponsive to Will, indicating that Will will no longer be able to protect him from anything.


CHAPTER 21

Summary

A wood-plank boardwalk lies behind the house in the alleyway. Will’s grandfather toted the boardwalk to the alleyway when cement sidewalks were poured all over town. At ten, Will is lying in bed thinking about the boardwalk. The text suggests Will is waiting to hear the boardwalk “speak.” Because boys are never direct in summoning their friends, Jim and Will had, over the years, “tuned” the boardwalk by prying up boards and nailing them differently. As a result, they could make various sounds with the walk. The tune played on the walk suggested the evenings' events. Will is desperately waiting for Jim to play some tune upon the walk. He, however, has no idea what type of tune Jim would play for their evening activities. As Will continues to wait, he begins to hate the idea of Jim sitting in his room probably thinking about what he’d seen in the mirror maze. Will particularly hates the idea that Jim has no father to stop him, and Jim’s mother drives him to need freedom. At ten thirty-five, Will thinks he hears Jim playing the backward tune from the calliope on the boardwalk. Just as he glances out the window, though, he sees Jim’s window raising up. Will realizes that it was just his imagination. He starts to whisper to Jim, but Jim never looks toward Will and quietly goes down the drainpipe. Will is angry that Jim seems to be ditching him. Will silently runs after Jim, hoping he can keep up. When Jim stops, they’re at Miss Foley’s house.

Notes

The wood-plank boardwalk in the alleyway seems to symbolize several things. It is symbolic of Will’s grandfather, a man who could, obviously, not let a new world with cement sidewalks surpass the relics of the past. He didn’t want the important things of the past to be completely left behind. The boardwalk is also highly symbolic of a language few have access to, the language of boys. Will and Jim use the boardwalk to speak to each other. When they need to do things typical of youth, they use the boardwalk to call to each other; much like Huckleberry Finn called to Tom Sawyer using cat noises. Will knows the time spent in the mirror maze changed Jim, but he doesn’t understand how. Will also seems to demonstrate some understanding of the differences between their parents. He knows that his father keeps him away from the evils Jim is attracted to. He feels sorry for the fact that Jim doesn’t have that influence in his own life. When Will finally does hear the music, it is an illusion. He does, though, happen to see Jim leaving him behind. Will cites, desperately, the similarities between the boys, as Jim leaves him. When he himself leaves, he is scared of being out alone.

 

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