Book Choice: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
| Author Biography |
Ray Bradbury, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938. Although his formal education ended there, he became a “student of life,” selling newspapers on L.A. street corners from 1938 to 1942, spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter. He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival, in 1947.
His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences. Next came The Illustrated Man and then, in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury’s masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden. In an attempt to salvage their history and culture, a group of rebels memorize entire works of literature and philosophy as their books are burned by the totalitarian state. Other works include The October Country, Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy, Something Wicked This Way Comes, I Sing the Body Electric!, Quicker Than the Eye, and Driving Blind. In all, Bradbury has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays. His short stories have appeared in more than 1,000 school curriculum “recommended reading” anthologies.
| Some Other Books by Ray Bradbury |
The Maritan Chronicles
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Illustrated Man
The Halloween Tree
One More for the Road
The October Country
Now and Forever
| Short synopsis / plot / summary |
Dandelion Wine is a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories by Ray Bradbury describing the summer of 1928 in Green Town, Illnois, through the narrative of 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding. It is this summer that Douglas first realizes that he is alive. Through adventures with his 10-year-old brother, Tom, and his pals Charlie Woodman and John Huff, Douglas becomes hyper self-aware of the people in his town, himself, and the beauty of the natural world around him.
The brothers decide to record the events of this summer, classifying him into two categories: the rituals that occur every summer, and his relfections of those rituals, which he describes as “illuminations,” and “discoveries and revelations.” This nonlinear book describes the rituals and illuminations the two boys experience. They record the annual making of dandelion wine with their Grandfather, which described as the bottled essence of summer, as one of the most meaningful rituals. The stories that Bradbury interweaves between the lives of the boys and the people in the town stress the importance of living in the present, and sheds light on the naunces of life that bring simple, unadultered joys.
One of the major themes of the book is mortality, and most importantly, the idea that awareness of life is also accompanied by an unsettling awareness of death, and the ending of lives and events. Douglas becomes overwhelmed with the deaths of close neighbors and friends and inevietably comes to the conclusion of his own mortality. As summer draws to the end, Douglas takes all of the rituals and discoveries he’s experienced and comes out wiser, and more self-aware.
| Overall feeling of the book (+12 descriptive words) |
Sad/Sense of Loss/Solemn
| the message |
You can’t be fully alive without recognizing death/mortality
| protagonist does... |
Through the eyes of innocent, inquistive, awestruck 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding, the reader becomes more aware of the subtle joys of happiness, summer, and the feelings of being alive for the first time.
| antagonist does... |
Mortality is the antagonist, the loss of important individuals or farewell to important events or objects. However, without these losses, Douglas would never truly understand what it means to be alive.
| 1 - 3 quote(s) from a character(s) |
“‘I’m alive,’ he thought” (9, Douglas).
“Dandelion wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered . . . . Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in” (13, Douglas).
“He realized that all men were like this; that each person was to himself one alone. One oneness, a unit in a society, but always afraid. Like here, standing. If he should scream, if he should holler for help, would it matter?” (42, Tom).
“‘You want to see the real Happiness Machine? The one they patented a couple thousand years ago, it still runs, not good all the time, no! but it runs. It’s been here all along’” (62, Leo Auffmann).
“‘No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now. Time hypnotizes. When you’re nine, you think you’ve always been nine years old and will always be. When you’re thirty, it seems you’ve always been balanced there on the bright rim of middle life. And then when you turn seventy, you are always and forever seventy. You’re in the present, you’re trapped in a young now or an old now, but there is no other now to be seen” (75, Mr. Bentley).
“Here we come, you and me, along the same track, but further on, and so much looking and snuffing and handling things to do, you need old Colonel Freeleigh to shove and say look alive so you remember every second! Every darn thing there is to remember! So when kids come around when you’re real old, you can do for them what the colonel once did for you. That’s the way it is, Tom, I got to spend a lot of time visiting him and listening so I can go far-traveling with him as often as he can” (89, Douglas referring to Colonel Freeleigh as The Great Time Machine).
“Important thing is not the me that’s lying here, but the me that’s sitting on the edge of the bed looking back at me, and the me that’s downstairs cooking supper, or out in the garage under the car, or in the library reading. All the new parts, they count. I’m not really dying today. No person ever died that had a family“ (183, Great-grandma)
“So if trolleys and runabouots and friends and near friends can go away for a while or go away forever, or rust, or fall apart or die, and if people can be murdered, and if someone like Great-Grandma, who was going to live forever can die . . if all of this is true . . then I, Douglas Spaulding, some day . . must . . “ (186, Douglas).
| Why this book to redesign |
I love this book for the sense of innocent youthfulness I felt when read it, how easy I settled into the beautiful poetry of Ray Bradbury, how much I learned about living through the candid and pondering curiosity of two little boys. All of the covers I’ve seen of this work doesn’t fully depict the deep visceral and emotional connection that people feel after reading this book. The title of Dandelion Wine bottles up the essece of summer, the lessons learned–a cover show reflect that.