” All things, once seen, they didn’t just die, that couldn’t be. It must be then that somewhere, searching the world, perhaps in the dipping multiboxed honeycombs where light was an amber sap stored by pollen-fired bees, or in the thirty thousand lenses the noon dragonfly’s gemmed skull you might find all the colors and sights of the wind in any one year. Or pour one single drop of this dandelion wine beneath a microscope and perhaps the entire world of July Fourth would firework out in Vesuvius showers. ” (139)
Summer of 1928 is a life-changing one for 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding, who decides to keep a record of things he does for the first time ever—especially the subtlest moments that he is involved in but never notices. As he observes the rituals of town, he is conscious of the fact that he is alive, and he rejoices in all of life around him.
The words are summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stopped. And now that Douglas knew, he really knew he was alive, and moved turning through the world, to touch and see it all, it was only right and proper that some of his new knowledge, some of this special vintage day would be sealed away for opening on a January day with snow falling fast and the sun unseen for weeks or months and perhaps some of the miracle by then forgotten and in need of renewal. (13)
Soon Douglas is confronted with the truth of all life: that death is inevitable and inclusive. “What ever happened to happy endings?” (155) is his response to this cruel fact. He wonders why people have to die, and that love and affection could only be a quality of the mind. Most of the people whom he has come to known over the summer has passed away, and the boy becomes fearful of death. For a 12-year-old, death is certainly not the subject of discussion. It’s not surprising that he alienates from other boys who (obviously) aren’t thinking about death. But for a boy like Douglas who just finds out that he is teeming with life, and living vicariously through summer, grappling with the idea of death is difficult. Death will deprive him of the magic of life he has just found, and therefore he undertakes an escapade to save the wax Tarot Witch from the penny arcade.
So, I don’t know; what I want to do is: help Mme. Tarot. I’ll hide her a few weeks or months while I look up in the black-magic books at the library how to undo spells and get her out of the wax to run around in the world again after all this time. And she’ll be so grateful, she’ll lay out the cards with all those devils and cups and swords and bones on them and tell me what sump holes to walk around and when to stay in bed on certain Thursday afternoons. I’ll live forever, or next thing to it. (200)
A boy’s plan for immortality! Eventually, like the old folks who can feel their clocks clicking away, Douglas, too, must come to terms with life. Dandelion Wine is not only Bradbury’s golden and heavily mythologized reflections of the summers of his boyhood, it’s an allegory about people’s lives and what it means to live. Through Douglas one perceives that life is about living from moment to moment. Life only has meaning as long as death exists. Throughout the novel Bradbury reminds us that however much grief and fear death invokes, it is not necessarily the worst thing that happens to life. What really matters is living the moment and being happy. Beautifully and provocatively written, it is a sonnet to and affirmation of childhood and innocence of such persuasive power that it will be savored for generations to come. The power of this book lies in the discovery of fundamental and universal truths through the senses of children with a nostalgic longing.
239 pp. Bantam pocket book. [Read/
Skim/ Toss] [Buy/ Borrow]