Saturday, June 25, 2011

Caution: You Contained within Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes

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Caution You Contained within Bradburys Something Wicked This Way Comes

The Oxford Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus defines narcissism as an excessive or erotic interest in ones self. This definition can be directly applied to one of the main characters in Ray Bradburys novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Charles Halloway, a father and husband, is completely involved within himself. Unlike most who struggle with narcissism, Charles does not have an inflated ego; rather, his focus is on the areas in which he believes he is incapable of effectively communicating and interacting with his family in the way that he desires. His focus evolves mainly from his belief that he can no longer effectively relate, therefore, rendering him incapable of participating in his wife or sons life. Charles paralyzing sense of narcissism symbolized in the novel by a popular attraction in the traveling carnival, the mirror maze.

As mentioned, Charles narcissism prevents him from having the strong relationship with his family he desires. His actions are not only selfish; they remove him from many aspects of family life. While the rest of his family is sound asleep, he will lie awake in bed feeling sorry for himself Three in the morning thought Charles Halloway, seated on the edge of his bed (58). Charles feels quite distant from his thirteen-year-old son, Will. He has a burning desire to run and play with him; as most all fathers do. A silent restraint deep inside binds Charles within his normal routine, trapping him into considering only what he believes is in his own best interest. Although this is never directly stated, we can conclude from Charles actions and private thoughts that he believes he is beyond the age and condition to actively participate in family activities. Bradbury communicates this to us by describing Charles unconscious feelings Watching the boys vanish away, Charles Halloway suppressed a sudden urge to run with them, make the pack. He knew what the wind was doing to them, where it was taking them, to all the secret places that were never so secret again in life. Somewhere in him, a shadow turned mournfully over

(17). Charles has focused so much time and energy upon himself that, both his inability to sleep at night and his lack of actively participating in his sons life, will continue to be a problem for him until he can refocus his attention to those who truly matter in his life.

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The mirror maze, one of the main attractions at the traveling carnival, is a symbol of Charles narcissism. Mirrors themselves have been around for centuries; historically they have been used to inspect ones appearance. In the same fashion, the mirror maze in Something Wicked This Way Comes allows its customers the opportunity to concentrate and look solely upon themselves by losing track of all reality, if only for a moment. Charles, who has already been described as a man who is self-absorbed, is tempted by this particular attraction. He sees the opportunity to look upon himself from many different angles, to inspect the paralyzing depression he is enduring because of his own self-image. Bradbury conveys the power of the maze by a description of what one might experience by stepping into the mirror maze

If a man stood here would he see himself unfolded away a billion times to eternity? Would a billion images look back, each face and the face after and himself lost in a fine dust away off deep down there, not fifty but sixty, not sixty but seventy, not seventy but eighty, ninety, ninety-nine years old? (55).

Halloway, who already sees himself as elderly, now has the temptation to step inside this attraction and confirm something he already believes. However, the mirror maze is an empty attraction that does not fulfill its consumers desires or answer their questions once they view themselves as evidenced by the commentary in chapter 1

The maze did not ask.

The maze did not tell (55).

In another instance, the book describes the mirror maze as narcissistic, simply fueling Charles belief Ahead flowed slices of silver light, deep slabs of shadow, polished, wiped, rinsed with images of themselves and others whose souls, passing, scoured the glass with their agony, curried the cold ice with their narcissism, or sweated the angles and flats with fear (55). This passage suggests that those who are self-involved may not have control over their fate; rather, they are sucked into this devouring evil through numerous small experiences throughout their lives that eventually overtake them.

Halloway, unlike some who find themselves indulged within this disorder, is able to strip away his narcissism and find that the relationship he desires with his family is truly obtainable. Charles overcomes this by realizing he is not too old to relate with his son. One evening Will provides his father the opportunity to bond with him. Upon arriving at their home the younger of the two males begins to ascend to his bedroom by way of the iron rung ladder he constructed among the lattice work on the side of the house. Will senses the urge to ask his father to follow, although, he does not have full knowledge of his fathers internal battle. Charles, who is hesitant at first, in time decides to follow his son up the side of the house. In a literal sense, the ladder is a way for Will to get to his room rather than using the conventional door. Symbolically, this scene provides Charles with a symbolic ladder to begin climbing out of his narcissism. Will is now able to see that his father views himself as old and broken. Even with this revelation, he does not fully recognize the magnitude of his invitation for his father to join him. Will has provided his father the opportunity to feel younger and closer to his offspring. This is not the only event that helps Charles come to this realization. One other experience the elder Halloway has longed to have with his son becomes a reality in the closing chapter of the novel And behind them jogged a middle-aged man with his own now solemn, now amiable, thoughts (0). Halloway, by doing something as seemingly insignificant as running with his son and friend, feels a closeness to his son and a fulfillment within himself that he had never experienced to this point in his life. Although Halloway has not totally smothered the beast within himself, he has taken two huge steps to repairing and regaining what he had lost within the context of the relationship with his son.

Narcissism is not something everyone will grapple with in his or her life. For those who do struggle with this behavior disorder, it is a difficult obstacle to overcome. Putting yourself second to things you consider to be most important in life is a difficult task for even those who do not suffer from this hindrance in life. Charles Halloway is beginning to realize he can overcome himself. Although it took him quite some time to realize the relationship deficiency within his family did not come from his age but, instead, resulted from his sole focus on himself. As the novel unfolds, Charles is slowly beginning to become the man he wishes to be for his family. The mirror maze, a symbol of ones focus and, in extreme situations, even an infatuation of who one believes they are, is a perfect example of how even the smallest obstacles can prevent us from attaining our potential as people. Charles let his age and sense of detachment from his son overtakes his life. Instead of finding a way to relate to his son through other avenues, he completely shuts himself off from someone he loves. Will senses this and unknowingly provides his father with a symbolic ladder to climb out of himself. Charles may never put an exclamation mark on this chapter of his life, but if he can find a more productive balance, he will be on the right avenue to becoming the father and husband he wishes to be for himself and, more importantly, his family.

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