Summary of Chapters 5-8
Charles Halloway leaves the saloon but feels some change in the air. He sees a man in a dark suit across the street putting up posters. He goes closer to watch him, and the man gives him a fierce look. His palm has black hair on it. Charles is stunned but looks into the shop where the man has been to see a block of ice six feet long supposedly containing the body of the most beautiful woman in the world. The sign announces “Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show” (Chapter 5, p. 20) at the circus arriving outside of town. Charles is fascinated by the hollow emptiness inside the ice in the shape of a woman.
Meanwhile Jim tries to get Will to go down Hickory Street where they once saw in a lighted window a naked couple making love. Jim wants to see it, but Will does not. Then they see the circus handbill blowing in the wind that advertises all the freaks, like Mr. Electrico, the Dust Witch, and the Illustrated Man. The circus is coming to town. They think they hear the calliope. When Will goes home he is glad to see his parents, but they appear small and vulnerable to him. His dad has a circus handbill but hides it. In his room he hears his parents speak through the wall. His father complains that Will makes him feel so old. He hears his father sneak out of the house to go back to the library.
Commentary on Chapters 5-8
The topic of evil is introduced through images and feelings. Charles Halloway confronts one of the main characters, Mr. Dark, the circus owner, putting up posters. He sees that his palm has black hair on it, like a werewolf. Everything about this circus is spooky and mysterious, like the block of ice containing the most beautiful woman in the world. The boys are excited. Jim is trying to grow up fast and wants to see the forbidden world of sex in the window, while Will is not ready. Charles intuits that something is not right. Will generally feels safe within the bosom of his family, but this night his parents seem small, as if they cannot protect him.
It seems that Charles is very upset by aging, and watching his life pass him by. We discover something important as the narrative switches back and forth from the father’s to the son’s point of view. Charles may be getting old, but Will understands and respects his father’s wisdom. He likes his father’s philosophical ravings that he hears through the wall, about the “inconclusive way God ran the world” (Chapter 8, p. 27) for instance, because his dad’s voice has “the sound of truth” (Chapter 8, p. 27). This feeling Charles has, that it is not clear how God is running the world, is another foreshadowing that the story will be dealing with evil. The name of the circus show is also ominous (Pandemonium Shadow Show). “Pandemonium” is the name of Satan’s seat of government in Hell in Milton’s Paradise Lost. A shadow show is the opposite of the truth.