Something Wicked This Way Comes
Mr. Dark seizes Will and Jim, each with the hand that has their picture on it. Charles Halloway attempts to attack but the Illustrated Man seizes his hand and crushes it, and the injured man collapses to the floor. Mr. Dark carries the boys through the stacks and then drops them quickly. He points out that life is nothing but coincidences, and then shows them the scene outside the window. Jim's mother and Will's mother are walking across the street, on their way back from church. They do not see the boys, much to Mr. Dark's chagrin, for he would have gladly let them into the library. He carries the boys to the front door, where the Witch casts spells on them to stop them from speaking, hearing, or seeing. Then Mr. Dark tells her to go stop Charles Halloway's heart while he walks out with the boys and two of his freaks.
The throbbing in his crushed hand cripples Mr. Halloway. He cannot think or move because of the all encompassing nature of the pain, and when the Witch comes to kill him he does not resist. He tells her to make it quick, and she suggests the simple solution of stopping his heart. Charles Halloway follows her instructions and slows his heart more and more until he is on the verge of sleep, and then he decides to take one last look before dying. What he sees permits only one response, and he begins to laugh. The Witch recoils and tries to regain control, but Charles Halloway cannot control himself, and he explodes with laughter. Seeing the Witch in front of him, practically tickling him with her fingers as she put him to sleep makes him laugh. His laughter is physically damaging to the Witch, and she retreats in pain and fights her way out the door. Charles Halloway forces himself to stop laughing as he realizes that he has won some sort of a victory but that much more still needs to be done, and with a smile on his face he runs out into the night.
Mr. Dark walks with the boys and tells them to smile and say hello to Mr. Tetley when they pass him, and the boys can only do what he tells them to do. The Illustrated Man tells Jim he can still have his ride on the carousel and that if Mr. Cooger does not survive, and he cannot be sure that he will, then he will make Jim his partner. He will make Will into a little baby for the Dwarf to hold in his arms. They pass a policeman and Mr. Dark again tells them what to say and how to act as they waltz past the unsuspecting officer and go towards the carnival.
The power of Charles Halloway's laughter to defeat the witch shows the optimistic tone of Bradbury's story. Halloway laughs at the Witch because, in the moment before his death, everything seems funny to him. The fact that he is about to be killed by a person using a spell to stop his heart, and the grotesque and ridiculous features of the Witch herself, are enough to make him hysterical with laughter. Bradbury opposes humor and evil, depicting the evil characters as thriving on people's fear. Laughter is not a sign of fear. Even when everything seems to be going wrong, if we can laugh at a situation then somehow it makes it easier to deal with.
When we laugh at something extraordinarily funny that has just occurred, we do so because it seems so out of place. Charles Halloway is laughing at just such an occurrence. The witch in front of him at the moment of his death was too absurd for him not to laugh. But there are also times when we are in situations that can only be laughed at. That is because sad things happen in life, as do terrible things, and when we dwell on them it only makes us feel bad. But when we laugh it makes us feel better, and so when we can smile or laugh at difficult situations then we can heal ourselves. Things may be bad at the moment, but our laughter shows that we now they will get better eventually. If things never got better then we would not laugh.
Laughter is a weapon against evil, then, because evil feeds on people's misery and sadness, and laughter refutes that misery and states clearly that things will be better and that we will feel good again. Like love, laughter is something that good has that evil denies. Pure laughter, like the hysterical laughing that Charles Halloway subjects the Witch to, is a sign of unadulterated human happiness, and creatures like the Witch are committed to thriving solely on human suffering. His laughing at her is a denial of her power over him and an affirmation of his strength as a human being. Without laughter, he would have given in to his hurt and his sadness but the laughter reminded Charles Halloway of better things, things that the evil of the Witch could never touch. What weapon can evil have against laughter, for the very act itself suggests that things are inherently good. We laugh because we know that if things are bad, they will get better. And other times we laugh because things are so good that there is nothing else to do. Laughter is always associated with good times and happy moments, for when we are laughing in troubled times the act itself makes us feel better. Laughter is therefore the last thing that true evil would ever want to associate with.
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