Dandelion Wine | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Dandelion Wine | Chapters 11–12 | Summary



Chapter 11

Late at night on his front porch, Leo Auffmann writes a list in the dark. He can't see it. Lena Auffmann comes out to join him and tells him they have no need for such a machine. Leo agrees but tells her that other people need it. He tries to think of things to put into it, such as motion pictures and radios. On hearing the sound of the elm leaves rustling in the wind, he makes a note to add it to the machine.

Chapter 12

Smiling in his sleep, Grandfather is wakened by the sensation of smiling. Moments later he understands the reason for his smile. He has heard the sound that signals summer has officially begun—the sound of the lawn mower. For him, this is New Year's Day. He looks outside to find one of the boarders mowing the lawn. However, downstairs in the kitchen Grandma tells him that the boarder is sowing a new kind of grass that doesn't need mowing. Grandfather runs outside to confront the boarder, Bill Forrester, a newspaper reporter. He tells Bill the trouble with his generation is that "all the things ... here to savor, you eliminate." He adds, "Cutting grass and pulling up weeds can be a way of life." After lecturing Bill on the pleasures of gardening, he offers Bill five dollars more than he paid for the new flats of grass. Bill reluctantly takes it and disposes of the flats.


The narration switches back to Leo Auffmann and his family as he embarks on building the happiness machine Douglas suggested. The conversation between Leo and Lena Auffmann initially suggests this is not Leo's first attempt at creating an invention that doesn't work. Thus, Lena reacts cautiously. Leo's defense is that "sometimes you got to build for others," a statement that shows he sees himself as a visionary who can change humanity. His wife, however, remains tied, thematically, to the notion that progress—in the form of inventions—doesn't always have positive effects or outcomes. If Leo Auffmann is a "visionary," then Lena is a pragmatist.

Meanwhile, the narrator shows Grandfather waiting for one of his own summer rituals to begin—the sound of the lawn mower starting up. Although Grandfather is two generations older than Douglas, he seems to take the same expectant delight in the rituals that bring him comfort. Those of the summer season seem almost holy to him, being able to mark the days and memories with each bottle of dandelion wine.

Yet, Grandfather's belonging to a different generation becomes apparent in his reaction to Bill Forrester's buying new grass that doesn't need to be mowed. Here, Ray Bradbury introduces the sense of suspicion that comes with change—any kind of change—or progress. Grandfather accuses Bill's generation—the one between his and Douglas's—of eliminating "all the things in life ... put here to savor." The notion of savoring is important to Grandfather's idea of summer, and so his suspicion has to do with the motives of the younger generation to sacrifice the ability to savor something. This generational divide appears throughout the novel, with those across the divide often unable to understand one another. However, in his fight to keep lawns that need to be mowed, Grandfather does understand something Douglas understands as well: time spent in nature is essential. For Grandfather and Douglas, paying attention to the seasons and to how they mark rituals is essential to life.

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