Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
The text is broken into three parts: arrivals, pursuits, and departures. The arrivals section deals primarily with the exposition and rising action of the story. We meet all of the necessary and important characters, and by the end of the arrivals section, we know about the hidden evils of the carnival. We also know the carnival will undoubtedly pursue the boys for hurting Cooger.
The pursuits section also deals with the rising action of the story. By the end of section, the boys have been captured by the carnival, as have all of the rest of the carnivals’ victims. It is, however, also by the end of this section that the reader, through Charles’ actions, knows it will be possible to defeat the carnival.
The departures section contains the climax, the falling action, and the resolution, but most of those don’t occur until the final chapter. With Charles’ knowledge of how to defeat the carnival, he defeats the Dust Witch, and subsequently Dark, the major threat of the novel. Dark’s fall leads to the fall of the entire carnival. It is not, though, those defeats which save Jim. Jim is only saved through Charles’ realization that joy, merriment, and true content with life are the only saving graces.
Loss of innocence
This theme begins at the end of the prologue when the text suggests there was an October week where the boys grew up overnight and were never so young again. It is clear from the start that Will is the younger of the two, despite the fact that he is physically older. Will is far more playful and less serious than Jim is. It is Will, more than Jim, who loses innocence. While Jim loses some, it is apparent to readers that Jim didn’t have as much innocence to begin with. With Will’s tragic loss of innocence, though, comes a great pool of knowledge that will serve him well into adulthood.
Lack of contentment with life
This text presents several characters who are wholly discontent with their lives, particularly with their ages. This unhappiness leads them to drastic measures that prove unhealthy for themselves and those around them. The first adult we meet in the book, Tom Fury, envies the boys for the youth they have.
That envy leads him to become one of Dark’s circus freaks. Other characters present themselves with a similar defect including Mrs. Crosetti, Miss Foley, and Charles. The Crosetti story line is never well developed, though he does go missing toward the beginning of the novel. Foley is quickly changed into a young girl through a single ride on the carousel. She realizes, very soon, that her wish was not played out as she wished, and now no one will help her. Charles, though he may wish he were younger, is never as badly punished as the other characters are. His only real punishment comes through lost time with Will, something that readers know will change at the end of the story. In addition to all of these characters, Jim is also a malcontent, but in a very different way. He wants age, not youth, and the achievement of that dream nearly kills him.
Evil can only be defeated through true joy
The end of section two leaves readers with no clear plan of action, only with an impression. Charles was nearing death, and he was only able to step back from the edge when he looked and laughed at the insanity of all of life. He puts that theory into practice at least four more times: while killing the Dust Witch, while smashing the mirror maze, while killing Dark, and while reviving Jim.
The Dust Witch dies when she chokes on a bullet that Charles has carved a smile on. The mirror maze almost defeats Charles by exaggerating his age, but he is able to smash it and laugh through it when he realizes, with Will’s help, that his age does not matter. Dark dies when Charles holds him out of his comfort zone. He essentially hugs him to death. Charles and Will are able to revive Jim by dancing, singing, and showing happiness. It is only through their happiness that Jim wakes up and joins their merriment.
POINT OF VIEW
This story is told in the third-person omniscient point of view. That means we have an unseen narrator who tells us not only the actions of all characters, but also the thoughts of all characters. This omniscience is necessary to this story because it allows us to see each character, and how she/he reacts to the various good/evil forces in the text.
SYMBOLISM / MOTIFS
Light versus Dark
This conflict is continuously presented in the text. Will is incessantly described as full of light, while Jim is often characterized as living in darkness. Even Jim’s last name, Nightshade, is reflective of dankness.
In chapter two, Charles describes the difference between “white-hat” books and “black hat books” for the boys, suggesting Jim enjoys darker, macabre books. It is also Jim who chooses to watch a couple engage in sexual activity through a window, an activity Will defines as dark.
When Jim meets Dark, the carnival owner, he is dutifully impressed with his evil aura. Jim wants the blackness inside Dark. It simply scares Will, who at every point in the novel, wants nothing more than to go home, snuggle under his blankets, and forget the entire event ever happened.