Dandelion Wine | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Dandelion Wine | Chapters 5–6 | Summary



Chapter 5

On the way home from seeing a movie with his family, Douglas spies a pair of tennis shoes in the shoe store window. He wants them. When his father asks him to explain why needs a new pair of sneakers, Douglas thinks of how the shoes make him feel. He tries to explain his feelings but finds it hard to do. For him, the sneakers are connected to the sensations of summer, such as taking his shoes off for the first time and running in the grass or wading in the creek for the first time. His father doesn't seem to understand, asking what was wrong with digging out his tennis shoes from last year. For Douglas, "the magic was always in the new pair of shoes" one got to wear after a long winter. He tries to explain to his father that last year's shoes are already "dead inside." His father tells him to save his money and buy them in five or six weeks, not understanding that by then, summer will be over. In bed that night Douglas shakes his coin bank, tries to think of reasons he needs the new sneakers, and dreams of a rabbit running "in the deep warm grass."

Douglas returns to the shoe store, owned by Mr. Sanderson. He makes careful stacks of his change on the counter, but Mr. Sanderson stops him before he can say anything. He tells Douglas that he knows what he wants to buy because he has seen him looking in the store window every day. He also says that he knows Douglas wants to buy the shoes on credit. Douglas has something better to offer: he asks Mr. Sanderson when the last time was that he wore these kinds of tennis shoes. He also tells Mr. Sanderson that he believes he owes it to his customers to try on the shoes he sells. Further, he tells Mr. Sanderson that if he sells him the shoes, Douglas will sell Mr. Sanderson something just as valuable. When Mr. Sanderson tries the shoes on, Douglas says that although he will still owe a dollar, he will deliver and pick up his packages and run his errands. Mr. Sanderson thinks about it and then asks Douglas if he would like a job selling shoes in five years. He gets a box with the shoes for Douglas and writes an errand list for him to complete that afternoon. Once Douglas has completed the errands, buyer and seller will be even.

Chapter 6

Douglas pulls out a writing tablet and pencil. He tells Tom he wants to keep track of things they always do during the summer, such as making dandelion wine and lemonade, shooting firecrackers, and picking wild grapes. He also wants to keep track of the things they will do for the first time ever. The first column will be titled "Rites and Ceremonies," and the second column will be titled something like "Discoveries and Revelations."


The sneakers that appeal so much to Douglas mean freedom and magic. For Douglas, "the magic was always in the new pair of shoes," which he associates the beginning of summer and the promise they hold of what's to come. Throughout the novel, ordinary objects are imbued with "aliveness" in this way for Douglas, showing how a child often perceives the world differently from the way an adult does. Although Father tries to convince Douglas nothing is wrong with last year's sneakers, "last year's pair were dead inside," their summer magic lost, their newness worn off.

The sneakers also come to represent one of the important rituals of summer, something Douglas and Tom take seriously and to which they pay close attention. The lightweight, spongy sneakers allow Douglas to run fast and to be closer to nature in a way he can't be during the winter, when he must wear heavier shoes and stay indoors. Mr. Sanderson's reaction to Douglas's request to try on the sneakers and his persuasive efforts show the division between children and adults. Children retain a sense of wonder and magic about the world, whereas adults are more pragmatic and less likely to see the world in the same uncomplicated fashion. Yet, Douglas offers some of this sense of magic back to Mr. Sanderson, which speaks to the power of memory to transport a person back to the magic of childhood. And at the same time, he appeals to the pragmatic nature of the businessman. Douglas offers his services as partial payment—an agreement that suits them both.

The yellow tablet Douglas and Tom use to record "Discoveries and Revelations" is another talisman similar to Douglas's sneakers. The tablet is the place in which Douglas records the discovery that he is alive, for as he explains to Tom, "thinking about it, noticing it, is new." The narrator highlights the difference between Douglas and Tom here: while Tom thinks "that's old," Douglas explains that to know and see that one is alive is revelatory. Although Tom may understand intellectually that he is alive, he hasn't experienced the wonder of knowing, as Douglas has. By showing this distinction, Ray Bradbury highlights the way knowledge and revelations come at different stages of childhood, when a child realizes something for the first time that profoundly shifts understanding of the self and the world. Another revelation Douglas records relates to the dandelion wine: "Every time you bottle it, you got a whole chunk of 1928 put away, safe." For Douglas, the ritual of memory is important when it comes to summer, to bottle each moment and memory so that it can be savored and remembered.

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