Dandelion Wine | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Dandelion Wine | Chapters 21–22 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 21

Douglas's friend John Huff is one of the fastest, smartest, kindest people Douglas knows, "the only god living in the whole of Green Town, Illinois." Douglas and John go for a hike outside of town. Douglas can't help thinking that it is a perfect day—until John reveals that his family is moving to Milwaukee. Agitated, Douglas tells John that they have so much to talk about before he leaves—that very night. But John wants to talk about a set of colored windowpanes he has just noticed in town, despite seeing them every day of his life. He worries about all the other things he's missed noticing. He makes Douglas promise to remember him.

Chapter 22

Later, the boys and their friend discuss their plans for what they want to do when they grow up. Douglas imagines all of their faces on trains, sliding away in other directions. After dinner that night, they reconvene outside for one last game of hide-and-seek before John Huff must leave. Douglas finds John standing as still as a statue and commands him not to move a muscle for three hours. John reminds him that he has to leave soon. They play one more round, and John says goodbye while he can't move. Later, Douglas stands on the street and shouts at empty lawns, declaring John his enemy and wanting him never to come back. That night he makes Tom promise to stick around, even though they are brothers and hate each other sometimes. After Tom reassures his brother, he tells Tom it's not him he worries about, but "the way God runs the world." "He tries," Tom says of God.

Analysis

The importance of relationships and understanding of them is highlighted through Douglas and John Huff's friendship. The two boys have grown up together, and neither has considered the possibility of one of them moving away. In their closeness, Douglas admires John so much that he refers to him as "the only god living in the whole of Green Town, Illinois." Douglas's depiction of John shows that in the small world of childhood, friendships can be an entire universe. It is just as Douglas is feeling a sense of contentment on their hike—as "things stayed near, things were at hand and would remain"—that John tells him he is moving that day. The only argument Douglas can make against the move is to say helplessly, "But we're friends," as though their friendship would make John's father keep his family in Green Town. Douglas is stricken by the suddenness of the loss, no time to prepare for or come to accept it. In a coming-of-age novel, as in life, loss is part of the universal rite of passage. Indeed, the reader can already see how the lessons Douglas is learning this summer will change him from a boy to an adult.

John, for his part, has his own revelation akin to Douglas's revelation of being alive. As they walk through town, John is alarmed that he is noticing some things only for the first time, because it is the last time he will see them. His revelation worries him: "It's just if I didn't see these windows until today, what else did I miss?" Since John and Douglas have no context for living anywhere other than Green Town, they have become used to many of the things they see every day. Douglas is also horrified when John begins to run, because in Douglas's youthful conception of time, running means that time goes faster with you. He believes that the only way to keep time from moving quickly is "to watch everything and do nothing!" Douglas's belief shows how a child's understanding of time differs from an adult's and stems from observations based on feelings. The loss of John rattles Douglas, turning him angry in a way that surprises him. When he asks Tom to promise later that he'll stick around, Douglas reveals that he worries about "the way God runs the world." This moment demonstrates that Douglas is beginning to realize certain things are beyond his control and perhaps even fated as part of a larger divine plan. The realization contrasts sharply with Douglas's waking up on the first summer day and "orchestrating" the life of the town.

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