Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury was born the third of four children to Esther Moberg and Leonard Spaulding Bradbury in Waukegan, a large city near Chicago, Illinois. Bradbury’s family struggled financially during the Great Depression, and they moved back and forth between Waukegan and Tucson, Arizona, before finally settling in Los Angeles, California, when Bradbury was fourteen years old. Bradbury immediately fell in love with Hollywood and frequently snuck into movie theaters and roller-skated throughout the city hoping to catch a glimpse of movie stars. Despite his love for Los Angeles, however, Waukegan remained an important part of his life. For Bradbury, Waukegan symbolized safety and comfort, and it serves as the inspiration for Green Town, the fictional city in Something Wicked This Way Comes. As a child, Bradbury was an avid reader, and while he initially wanted to be a magician, he began writing at the young age of eleven. He graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1938, the same year he published his first story, “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma,” in the magazine Imagination! Bradbury did not attend college and openly rejected higher education. He was quoted as saying, “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries.” Bradbury sold his first story, “The Lake,” in 1942 for less than fourteen dollars, and he began writing full-time two years later after he was denied entrance into the United States military due to bad eyesight. In 1947, he married his long-time girlfriend, Marguerite, the only woman he had ever dated, and published Dark Carnival, a collection of short stories, that same year. Bradbury went on to pen over thirty novels, including Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fahrenheit 451, and hundreds of short stories, poems, and plays. He is the winner of numerous awards and accolades, including the Prometheus Award in 1984 and a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. In 2000, he was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation and was later made Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government. Bradbury was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002, and in 2003 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Woodbury University. In 1999, Bradbury suffered a stroke, which severely impaired his mobility, but he continued to write until his death in 2012 at the age of 91. Upon his death, Bradbury willed his personal library to the public library in his hometown Waukegan.
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Historical Context of Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes focuses on Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, a traveling carnival that visits the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois. Traveling carnivals have a long and colorful history within the United States, and while they are often associated with religious observances outside the United States, in America they center around fun and amusement. The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 is credited with sparking America’s obsession with traveling carnivals, and after the fair’s six-month run in Chicago, several acts and showmen broke off and formed their own shows. Otto Schmidt was one such showman, and after the World’s Fair he later founded the Chicago Midway Amusement Company. Several iconic American foods and amusement rides began at early carnivals, such as the Ferris wheel, which debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair, and cotton candy, which was first sold at the at St Louis World’s Fair in 1904. By 1936, over three hundred carnivals traveled the United States offering a variety of rides, games, and shows to Americans; however, their popularity began to wane by the latter half of the twentieth century, due in part to the emergence of permanent amusement parks and the public’s changing views of freak shows and the exploitation of people of animals. Early traveling carnivals were famously managed by unethical, and often illegal, business practices that led to a widespread negative connotation of fairs and carnivals, which is also reflected in the evil of Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show. In 1932, Bradbury met a real-life Mr. Electrico at a traveling carnival. The performer touched a young Bradbury with his sword and ordered him to “Live Forever!” which Bradbury has certainly achieved through his prolific writing career.

Other Books Related to Something Wicked This Way Comes

Bradbury openly rejected categorizing his work and instead considered his writing “the art of the possible.” However, Bradbury’s work is often classified as science fiction, and he is credited with bringing modern science fiction to the literary canon. Bradbury was mentored by Bob Olsen, an American science fiction writer who died in the late 1950s. Olsen is the author of many poems and short stories, including “Seven Sunstrokes” and “The Pool of Death.” Bradbury was also influenced by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Allan Poe, whose dark and spooky subject matter is certainly reflected in Bradbury’s many horror stories and novels. He was also an avid reader of the classics, including those written by William Shakespeare, Alexander Pope, and John Donne, and this influence can be seen in Bradbury’s beautiful and poetic prose. Much of Bradbury’s work, including Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, and I Sing the Body Electric, involve elements of the supernatural, but they also offer a powerful critique of people and society. Other famous works that engage society and the supernatural include Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Bradbury has influenced and informed many contemporary writers of science fiction and horror. Most notably, American writer Stephen King credits Bradbury, especially Something Wicked This Way Comes, with sparking his own interest in the supernatural. Bradbury’s influence can be seen in much of King’s work, including the novel It and the short story “The Body,” which both focus on coming of age and the choice between good and evil. Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus also bears thematic resemblance to Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, as it also takes place at an eerie circus and grapples with the concepts of time, mortality, magic, and love.
Key Facts about Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • Full Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • When Written: 1960s
  • Where Written: Los Angeles, California
  • When Published: 1962
  • Literary Period: Contemporary American Literature
  • Genre: Horror fiction, fantasy fiction
  • Setting: Green Town, Illinois
  • Climax: Will and Charles revive Jim through laughter and silliness after he rides Cooger and Dark’s evil carousel and nearly dies.
  • Antagonist: Mr. Dark
  • Point of View: Third-person omniscient

Extra Credit for Something Wicked This Way Comes

Bradbury in Hollywood. Ray Bradbury claimed from a young age that he wanted to be an actor, and while he never realized this dream, his impact on movies and television is undeniable. Bradbury was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the screenplay for John Huston’s 1956 adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and in 1994 he was awarded an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree.

Witches and Warlocks. Ray Bradbury is the seventh great-grandson of Mary Bradbury, a woman who was accused, tried, and convicted of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. She was sentenced to hang for her crimes, but, luckily, she was not executed before the trials were discredited later that same year. Mary lived to be an old woman, and in addition to Bradbury, actress Linda Hamilton and actor Christopher Reeve are among her descendants.