Summary of Chapters 37-40
Charles Halloway walks through the crowds, visits the carnival and then spends the rest of the day in the library reading. He had seen the freaks, and the Mirror Maze. In the library, the list of his reading is a catalogue of books on horror. He thinks of the boys as innocents watching a parade of the Seven Deadly Sins, and finds two lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “By the prickling of my thumbs,/ Something wicked this way comes” (p. 137). The boys come at dark and tell Mr. Halloway all that they have experienced with the circus. He says he believes them. He shows them newspaper ads from 1846,1860, 1888, 1910, and now, advertising this same Cooger and Dark Pandemonium Theater. They always come in October: “They sift the human storm for souls” (Chapter 38, p. 142). Halloway says there is hope, because there is choice to choose good. He tells them they have to know evil to know good, and they have to find out about this carnival. It lives off the souls of others and uses death as a threat. He tells them all he knows about good and evil. He does not believe death exists. As they try to figure out the weapons to fight these creatures, the front door of the library opens. Halloway tells the boys to hide.
Commentary on Chapters 37-40
The mixed quality of human nature is presented by Halloway as he gives himself as an example of having autumn in him, like the carnival. But he also contains good, for he tells them he thinks his purpose for having lived is “to help you” (Chapter 38, p. 143). This is another central philosophical section as Halloway gives the boys a lecture on human history. Humans have always striven towards something better, he says; they did not just accept evil.
The boys like it when he talks because they feel that he is keeping evil at bay and protecting them. They want to know where evil came from, and he gives them examples of selfishness, fear, and pain. It comes from our own weakness and desire to get something for nothing. They are afraid of the supernatural, but the carnival is no different from ordinary people, he points out. His main point to the boys in this education and preparation for confronting evil is that people do not have to be victims; they have a choice. Although Bradbury’s story itself shows evil to be both a human failing and a supernatural force, Mr. Halloway stresses the human element, so the boys will not be afraid.