Dandelion Wine | Study Guide

Ray Bradbury

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Dandelion Wine | Chapters 9–10 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 9

As Leo Auffmann bicycles away, he considers "the shocks of life," such as being born, "growing up, growing old," and "dying." Arriving home, he finds his six children waiting for him with ice cream, and he asks his wife what she might think about his inventing a happiness machine. She responds by asking whether something is wrong.

Chapter 10

As Grandfather walks home with Douglas and Tom, Douglas is distracted by his friends running by and joins them. Back at home, Mother tells Tom to run to the store before it closes and get a pint of ice cream. They share the ice cream and wait for Father and Douglas to return home. When Mother begins calling outside for Douglas, Tom senses that she feels nervous. She takes him on a walk to find his brother, informing him that "the Lonely One's around again. Killing people. No one's safe anymore." Tom is only 10 and knows "little of death, fear, or dread."

Mother and Tom walk to the ravine and stop, and he can tell she is scared. She worries aloud that some night, despite being warned not to, Douglas will go through the ravine "and never come out again." Tom notices that the crickets have stopped chirping, the deafening silence making him feel as though something is about to happen. Suddenly, they hear Douglas's voice call out a response that he is coming, and Mother threatens him with a spanking. In bed that night, Tom tells Douglas that the ravine at night does not belong in Mr. Auffmann's Happiness Machine.

Analysis

Although Dandelion Wine centers largely on Douglas Spaulding's experiences of summer 1928, Ray Bradbury often pans out to highlight other characters in Green Town to show how individuals in this community affect one another. These are likely the stories from Bradbury's own life, which he weaves together through the thread of Douglas's coming of age. Leo Auffmann is one such character, and the narrator looks to him to shine a light on the characters at Douglas's periphery. Along with Leo, the narrator depicts Auffmann's relationship with his six children and his wife, who seems to sense immediately that something is wrong with him after his encounter with Douglas, Tom, and Grandfather.

After introducing the first character in the novel without Douglas Spaulding's lens, the narrator shifts back to Tom and Grandfather. Bradbury often depicts Douglas both from the vantage point of his small-town existence and from that of Earth or the universe. This depiction has the dual effect of showing Douglas and his childhood from an intimate perspective and at the same time places his revelations and fears in a more universal context. Although Douglas and Tom feel as though their discoveries and revelations are unique, Bradbury often demonstrates how the adults in the novel are familiar with love, death, and being alive. This has the effect of conveying Douglas's constant horror and awe at both the significance and insignificance of his life in the face of being alive.

After Douglas runs off with his friends, the narrator shifts to Tom and Mother, depicting how Mother's incremental fear begins to affect Tom. Although Douglas has experienced the awe of feeling alive, now Tom, for the first time, is confronted with the real possibility of death, as he realizes Douglas might be in danger. Mother's reference to "the Lonely One" introduces the first concrete element of menace lurking in the background of an idyllic summer in an idyllic town. Mother notes that "no one's safe anymore," thus upsetting the reader's sense of comfort and security.

Tom's fear of the ravine also heightens the sensation of menace lurking in the dark wilderness, threatening to envelop the seeming innocence and safety of the town. Tom realizes that "in that pit of jungled blackness were ... things he would never know or understand." Although this overwhelming realization is similar in nature to Douglas's realization of being alive, this one seems far more terrifying. Tom feels the added fear of realizing adults such as his mother don't have more knowledge. He asks, "Was there, then, no strength in growing up? No solace in being an adult?" For Douglas and Tom, to be an adult means to be a different race, one that is smarter. Tom's realization changes his worldview.

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