Dandelion Wine | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Dandelion Wine | Chapters 31–32 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 31

When Douglas, Tom, and Charlie Woodman reconvene the next day, Douglas tells them what he saw in the ravine. They discuss how a man was carried out of Lavinia's house that morning on a stretcher and speculate that it was the Lonely One. The news is that Lavinia stabbed him with sewing scissors. Charlie is disappointed that there will no longer be any speculation or suspense, but Tom maintains that the Lonely One isn't dead because the face Douglas saw on the stretcher didn't look like the man they imagined.

Chapter 32

Back at home, Great-Grandma reckons with her long life and begins the process of dying. "The rumor of what she was doing dropped down the stairwell," and her family begins to gather around her. She's not suffering from illness but feels an "ever-deepening tiredness." Her family begs her not to die, telling her the house will fall apart without her. She summons Tom alone to her bedside. Telling him they are a lot alike, she says she "is leaving while ... still happy and entertained." Doug is summoned next and put in charge of picking someone to shingle the roof each year, which she had always done. Pick someone who will enjoy it, she advises him. She also reassures him that "no person ever died that had a family," meaning that she will live on through her descendants. Her door closes, and she is left alone to die contentedly.

Analysis

Douglas, Tom, and Charlie Woodman's reactions to what happened in the ravine and with Lavinia Nebbs demonstrate, on some level, that they still have a childlike understanding of the permanence of death and what it means. Charlie feels upset only because the Lonely One is no longer lurking for them to fear and discuss. Charlie doesn't seem to comprehend the loss of life that has taken place, nor its consequence. Much in the same way Tom and his friends couldn't understand Mrs. Bentley was once young, Charlie cannot understand the gravity of a life extinguished because he didn't know the Lonely One or his victims. The boys yearn for the Lonely One to remain a mythical figure, because for him to become the ordinary man that Douglas sees carried out of Lavinia's house means threats can be masked behind something ordinary. Charlie refuses to believe an "ordinary man" would be capable of such acts. That an ordinary man can indeed perpetrate such acts is perhaps one of the hardest lessons for children to learn—monsters come in many guises. Douglas is deeply troubled by what he has witnessed, as he merely repeats the minor details, such as the glass of lemonade on Lavinia's porch. That those are the details he will remember speaks to the novel's emphasis on the role of memory in one's life.

Although members of Douglas's family have appeared at the periphery of his daily life—particularly his relationship with his father and grandfather—the roles his great-grandmother and grandmother play also are significant. Great-Grandma is portrayed as a family institution, the very backbone that keeps the group running smoothly. However, as witnessing death and departures is a lesson Douglas is learning during the summer of 1928, it becomes apparent it is Great-Grandma's time to go. Like Helen Loomis, she seems to know when her time has come and tidily prepares for it. The narrator depicts her life "as if a huge sum in arithmetic were finally drawing to an end," and she sees the figures as a sign of her time to die. The denial and pleas from her family show just how integral they see her as a part of their family dynamic, and she calls them in one by one to convey her wisdom, advice, and requests about carrying on after her death. She also tells Douglas that "no person ever died that had a family," and with that she carries on the theme of aging and memory that threads throughout the novel. Just as it seemed tragic for Colonel Freeleigh's memories to die with him, Great-Grandma's will live on as long as her family lives on to remember and retell them. But Great-Grandma's death is the death closest to home Douglas has witnessed. They are related, and she has helped raise him his whole life.

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