Summary of Chapters 21-24
At 10:30 at night, Will sees Jim escape out of his window alone. It is the first time the friends have not gone out together. Will runs to follow Jim to Miss Foley’s house. They see the nephew’s shadow on the shade. Will grabs Jim and begs him to go home and not bother with the nephew. Jim tells Will to leave and spits on him. Will understands Jim would like to ride on the merry-go-round and go forward so he can be older. Will beats up Jim and sits on him as the door opens and the nephew looks around. He throws some of the aunt’s jewelry at them and then yells for the police. Miss Foley discovers a robbery and calls the police as the boys run away with the nephew after them. They run to the carnival. The fake nephew (Mr. Cooger) gets on the carousel, but now it is going forward. Jim tries to get on, and Will fights him. Will finds the carousel control box to break it, but it goes wild until Cooger becomes an old man, like a mummy or skeleton but still alive. The boys run to a phone booth and call the police and an ambulance.
Two policeman and two interns follow the boys to the merry-go-round, but Cooger is not there. They go to the Freak Tent where Will recognizes the Dwarf as the lightning rod salesman made into a freak. Mr. Dark welcomes the police and says his freaks are rehearsing. They are controlled by the tattoos on the Illustrated Man. There is a new act, says Mr. Dark, Mr. Electrico, strapped in an electric chair. Will yells that the man in the electric chair is the dead Mr. Cooger. Mr. Dark says he is in a hypnotic trance and throws the switch that puts volts of electricity into the body. Mr. Dark wills Cooger to come alive, and he does. The police and interns laugh, thinking it is all a show. Mr. Dark gives the boys free tickets, asking their names. Both give false names.
Commentary on Chapters 21-24
Mr. Dark’s game is revealed to the boys in the Freak Tent, though the police cannot see anything but a circus show. Mr. Dark is like Dr. Frankenstein, bringing the dead body of Cooger back to life. The freaks are all distorted people who have been made into the living dead, controlled by Mr. Dark. The Freak Tent is described elaborately from Will’s point of view that sees beneath illusion. Jim sees the same thing but appears to be lost, as he wants Mr. Dark to continue the show. Here the two boys are like a single person being tempted. Will is the light half, and Jim is the dark half. Will manages to keep Jim from being completely swallowed up, but Jim is not grateful, even though he sees what is going on.