Summary of Chapters 41-44
When Mr. Dark comes into the library, “Charles Halloway felt his soul submerge” (Chapter 41, p. 154). Mr. Dark wants to know where the boys are. He tells Halloway he could kill him and fix it so it looks like he had a heart attack. He takes the Bible from Charles and throws it in the wastebasket. He tempts Charles with the gift of youth if he will betray the boys. Charles does not respond. Then Mr. Dark he tempts the boys to betray one another. He threatens to torture their mothers, and he hears someone sob. When he finds the boys, he holds them while they yell for help. Charles attacks Mr. Dark who breaks his hand until he collapses on the floor. Mr. Dark takes the boys outside to the Dust Witch who puts a spell on them. Then he tells the Witch to stop the janitor’s clock, meaning his heart. She tries to stop his heart. When Charles is almost dead, he begins to laugh. He keeps laughing until she retreats.
Commentary on Chapters 41-44
These chapters are scary, because Bradbury makes it seem that evil is more powerful than good. That is the appeal of horror stories, after all. The boys are taken, and Charles is being killed by the Dust Witch, who is stopping his heart. His laugh sends her away, and his victory over evil is clear. He begins to see her as a mechanical witch with a key in her back, not real.
Charles has always been melancholy and without joy or hope. He has lectured the boys on the nature of evil but then, it seems his ideas are useless in the face of reality. How can philosophy deal with something like Hitler’s Germany or Mr. Dark? Mr. Dark not only threatens with physical violence, but also rouses fear by probing the mind of his victims. Charles almost gives in to the Dust Witch, tired of fighting with life. Laughter is something very human. Even in times of stress, humans find comedy. Charles deprives the Witch of her power by not taking her seriously.