By the pricking of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes.
This line from Macbeth, quoted by small-town librarian Charles Halloway (Jason Robards), perfectly evokes the unsettling milieu of Ray Bradbury’s dreamlike thriller about a creepy carnival coming to a small Illinois town.
Significantly, this line is immediately followed in the film by the following verse from Longfellow, also quoted in the book:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.
The story is, then, a poetic confrontation between Halloween fear and dread on the one hand, Christmas peace and love on the other. Bradbury’s tale connects fear and dread to concupiscent desire and disordered regret — fantasies of wealth or women, preoccupation with lost beauty or physical ability. Arriving by night in late October, Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival promises visitors whatever they most desire, but as in Dante’s Inferno gratification of disordered desires incurs equal and opposite consequences.
The story centers on twelve-year-old best friends Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. Jim, abandoned by his father, longs for manhood, while Will’s father, the librarian Charles, is haunted by fear of mortality an episode in his past when Jim’s absentee father proved a better father to Will than Charles himself. Yet there are occasions for redemption in what is effectively a symbolic meditation on rejecting the devil and all his empty promises.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.