Summary of Chapters 9-12
The narrator says the trouble with Jim Nightshade is that he looks at the world and does not look away; therefore, he is older in his mind because he has seen what a twenty-year-old has. Will, on the other hand, does not look at the world, but beyond or to one side, and is younger in his mind, like a six-year-old.
Jim tells his mother he will never have children because people die. His mother says that if he were not alive she would have given up. They are the only ones left; the father, and three of his siblings have already died. She worries because he wants to go so fast. He leans out his window and feels the storm coming. He wants to take down the lightning rod, so he can experience the storm.
The lightning rod salesman looks in the store window with the block of ice at midnight. He begins to imagine the woman in the block of ice. All of the lovely images come to mind about the beauty of women, and he feels he knows what she will look like if he just goes in and melts the ice to take her out and look at her. He enters the store.
Both boys sit up in bed at night, hearing a calliope far away. They lean out their windows that face each other. They can see a train coming to town. They sneak out of their houses. Will begins to cry because of the scream he hears in the train whistle. The train stops in the meadow outside town; the boys hide and watch it. A tall dark man comes out of the train to the middle of the meadow, makes a motion, and suddenly, men are setting up tents. The boys become afraid because it is all done in silence, “a darkness within darkness” (Chapter 12, p. 39). They run all the way home.
Commentary on Chapters 9-12
We get a closer look at Jim’s character and family. Death has taken most of the family members, leaving only the mother and son. She clings to her only remaining child, but Jim always has one foot out the door. The boys are used to climbing out their windows at night for adventure, but the circus train and its silent setting up by men in the meadow at night frightens them.
We also see more into how the boys think and feel. Jim is not optimistic. He claims he does not want children because everyone dies. From this we assume the death of family members has touched him deeply. His mother tells him he cannot avoid being hurt by life. Getting hurt is thus another way of talking about the maturation he is about to experience. Jim actually goes looking for the hurt and growth, not wanting to hold back.
Will reflects on the difference between Jim and himself: “I tend cows; Jim tames Gila monsters” (Chapter 12, p. 35). He envies Jim’s fearlessness, though he doesn’t always approve what Jim wants to do. All of Bradbury’s characters are sensitive and intuitive rather than rational. We hear an intimate account of the lightning rod salesman’s temptation looking at the woman in ice in the shop. It not a sexual temptation, but a spiritual temptation, for the magic woman in ice draws out all his lyric fantasies about woman’s beauty. The salesman thinks of the freshness of morning, a painting in the Louvre—he wants to awaken that sleeping beauty, and is lured away from himself. This section introduces the circus as the vehicle of temptation, with Mr. Dark as the Ringmaster, able to play upon what each person wants. Yet, Charles Halloway had looked at the same block of ice earlier and seen the “lovely nothingness” of an invisible woman in the “arctic coffin” (Chapter 5, p. 21) and had turned away.
Will has integrity, like his father, and a sensibility that tells him when something is wrong. When he hears the train whistle, for instance, he hears “protests of a billion people dead or dying, not wanting to be dead, their groans, their sighs, burst over the earth!” (Chapter 12, p. 36)