Dandelion Wine | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Dandelion Wine | Chapters 35–36 | Summary



Chapter 35

Douglas comes upon Tom counting the number of times the cicadas buzz every 15 seconds in the trees. He claims this number can provide a mathematical equation to tell the exact temperature. Douglas peers down the hallway inside and tells Tom it's 87 degrees, but Tom disagrees and continues counting.

Chapter 36

There is one man, horse, and wagon known to every inhabitant of Green Town. They are alternately referred to as Mr. Jonas the man, Ned the horse, and "the wagon." If one knows how to listen, one can hear Mr. Jonas singing half an hour to an hour before he arrives. By the time he does, "the curbs [a]re lined by children, as for a parade." He comes through town at all hours of the day and night, with a wagon full of items he gives away for no money. In addition to distributing free items, he has delivered babies in the middle of the night, driven people to work, and kept them company on their porches talking until dawn. Mr. Jonas's goal is to spend his life ensuring that "one part of town had a chance to pick over what the other part ... cast off." The children often clamber onto his wagon to claim something. Then they return moments later with their own doll or game they have tired of to add to the pile for another child to claim.


Tom's attempt to understand the mystery of the cicadas' cyclical buzz highlights how differently he and Douglas view the world. Tom sees the world in facts and statistics, searching for the answer that can be deduced. He is less prone to worry about life's more philosophical questions at this point, though that outlook may change as he gets older. Their conversation also shows that a deeper division may be growing between them. Even though Tom's counting seems mathematical, there is a childlike element to his belief, and it's one Douglas doesn't accept. This rift underscores Douglas's coming of age, as he is moving away from the magical elements of childhood that require a suspension of disbelief. It is significant that as the summer progresses, Douglas's childhood ideas and convictions seem to fade with it.

Through his travels, Mr. Jonas is one of the few characters that connects many of the town's other characters. In some ways he has a bird's-eye view of Green Town that its other inhabitants do not. His mysterious provenance makes him something of a magical figure, someone "who had another life somewhere they could not guess." That he doesn't make money from his trade but rather offers his collection for the good of all also paints him as a kind of town saint. The way Mr. Jonas sees himself is also telling, looking at himself as a "kind of process, like osmosis, that made various cultures within the city limits available one to another." He sees himself as an integral part of the town's social and economic ecosystem.

Further, he is depicted as a character who may be said to represent a cycle of life. Just as Great-Grandma believes that someone who has a family never dies, Mr. Jonas's items similarly don't die. Each item is chosen carefully by those who "really want it," and it lives on in another generation or family.

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