In retrospect, I forgot to mention that this book is broken up into three parts: Part I, Arrivals; Part II, Pursuits; and Part III, Departures. Since my last reflection, we have found some action. It’s interesting to note that Bradbury writes very short chapters in this book, possibly as a way of propelling the reader from one situation into the next. The beginning was mainly exposition–introduction of characters, tendencies, to get us wondering about this out of place carnival.
Since then, we’ve discovered that the carousel changes the ages of the riders, older or younger, depending upon which way it’s running. Age seems to be the recurring symbol throughout the novel so far… The carousel runs backwards and makes people younger, Will threatens Jim with “I’ll remember this when” (he’s older). The school teacher, Ms. Foley was entranced with herself in the mirror, younger. This is, possibly, what trapped the other woman in the ice, which Charles Halloway found as a puddle on his way home. The only reason I offer this as conjecture is that the mirrors have been previously compared to ice; people felt cold coming out of the maze of mirrors.
The one thing I’m having trouble making out at this point is the reading but not reading, seeing but not seeing, and hearing but not hearing. I think my confusion occurs in the diction. Bradbury chooses to say “seeing but not seeing” instead of saying “looking but not seeing.” I don’t know if he was going for something specific with the repetition of the words, or if he was simply trying to imply that no one was really paying attention to what was going on around them and I’m reading too much into it. The distinction is not as obvious as in Faulkner’s Light in August where he distinguishes by saying a character is thinking something, thinking something else that appears in italics. So I don’t know. Perhaps with further reading the understanding will come.
Interestingly, with all this seeing but not seeing, people only briefly questioned the lateness of the carnival, then went blindly on to “enjoy” it. And how many people, like Will, Jim and Miss Foley, took home cards for a free turn on the carousel when it’s “fixed”? And what exactly happened to that woman in the ice? Was she real or simply a temptation indudged by the man peddling lightening rods for a storm that didn’t come? Of course the storm the lightning-rod-man predicted could be metaphoric, representing the invasion of the carnival.
And in keeping with the discussion of figurative language, at the end of Chapter 13, where the mirror maze is discussed, and Charles Halloway is seeing but choosing not to see the puddle of water on the floor the maze is waiting “for so much as a bird to come look, see, and fly away shrieking. But no bird came” (56). Single bird. Not flock of birds. A flock of birds flying away is symbolic of danger. A single bird, however, is a positive symbol. Here, the lack of the single bird suggests an ominous sense of danger.
Next time: Part II, Pursuit.