Dandelion Wine | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Dandelion Wine | Chapters 3–4 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 3

Grandfather stands on his front porch later that day, with Douglas and Tom in front of him on the lawn. They ask Grandfather if the dandelions are ready to be picked, and Grandfather lets them begin, offering a dime for every sack they fill and deliver to the press. Grandfather notes that dandelions are "a common flower, a weed that no one sees, yes. But for us, a noble thing."

The sacks of dandelions are carried to the cellar, where a wine press stands, and Grandfather begins to make dandelion wine. It will stay in the cellar, to be brought up by Grandma in winter, when family members may become ill, to be used as medicine.

Chapter 4

Standing on the rim of the nearby ravine, Douglas notices all the paths that have been made (or yet unmade) by boys like him. For Douglas, the ravine is the ideal spot to observe "two things of life, the ways of man and the ways of the natural world." He is drawn to the tug-of-war between people taking from the land and the land then taking itself back, the land winning in the end. Douglas also realizes that the first rite of summer—dandelion picking—is over and that the second rite is waiting "for him to make the motions" to begin it. He stands still while other boys run past him, calling his name, and he ponders why they seem more alive than he does.

Analysis

Grandfather is introduced as a man who has experienced many summers and knows what to expect. In contrast to Douglas's excitement and wonder at the discoveries that await him, the narrator describes Grandfather on his porch as "a captain surveying the vast unmotioned calms of a season dead ahead." The importance of rituals is a strong theme throughout the novel, and one of Grandfather's beloved rituals—one that Douglas eagerly anticipates—is picking the dandelions for making wine. Although Grandfather has lived a long time, he still has the quality of noticing the world around him that is so important to Douglas. For example, he points out that although the common dandelion may be "a weed that no one sees," for him it is "a noble thing."

Ray Bradbury again establishes that dandelion wine symbolizes all the images and senses of summer, highlighting how the mere words themselves are "summer on the tongue" and how the wine is "summer caught and stoppered." Here, Bradbury hints at the power of memory and nostalgia—how even though this summer will eventually disappear as time passes, the dandelion wine serves as a way to preserve its memory.

The ravine is a place of darkness, wildness, and mystery in the town, a direct contrast to the bright shops and orderliness that surround it. If the town represents life, the ravine—which the narrator characterizes as a "softly blowing abyss"—represents death. The ravine runs through the middle of the town, meaning that it represents mystery and wildness in its midst, a place of "a million deaths and rebirths every hour." As such, it is endlessly fascinating and alluring to Douglas and his friends. They move through it constantly, "always traveling, to be men." By this the narrator means that the boys will take certain paths in life, each with a different outcome. But for now, they travel together as they navigate the road from boyhood to adolescence. Douglas is drawn to the ravine because for him it represents the tug-of-war between people and nature, and he knows "the towns never really won, they merely existed in calm peril." Bradbury hints that the real tug-of-war is between life and death, between the facade that life will carry on indefinitely and the fact that death is indiscriminate and comes for everyone.

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