Summary and Analysis: The October Country Jack-in-the-Box””

“Jack-in-the-Box” is unique to The October Country because of its sheer fantasy element. Here Bradbury creates an entire fantasy world, a Universe so unique and separate from the real world that Edwin can adapt to it yet is totally unable to function normally when he faces reality.

Throughout the story, the Jack-in-the-Box is an obvious symbol for Edwin and his plight. At first, the toy doll is shut away within its box and unable to be free. Likewise, Edwin is trapped within the Universe that his father-God created for him, and all the while, he longs for freedom. Only when the Jack-in-the-Box has been cast from the Universe window is the doll capable of being rid of its prison box and of stretching its arms in a gesture of freedom. Edwin, too, never experiences freedom until he casts himself out of the Universe that was created for him.

Bradbury is a staunch believer in the innate goodness that exists within us. His use of sun imagery demonstrates this belief since he often uses these images to depict the life source and wholeness of humanity. When Bradbury describes father-God’s creation of the Universe and his placing of Edwin’s mother as the center of that Universe, he establishes the sun as the central image in the story. Edwin’s mother is indeed his sun. She is his teacher, his friend, and his life. But Edwin’s world is destroyed when he discovers his mother lying cold and quiet on the floor. The center does not hold. Edwin’s sun is dead and his life source no longer exists. Ironically, in what he believes to be sure suicide, he runs into reality, crying “I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m glad I’m dead.” Bradbury speaks to his readers from his pulpit of fantasy here. All people are dead unless they give meaning and order to their lives.