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Dandelion Wine

Ray Bradury


MonkeyNotes Study Guide by Ray Mescallado


Reprinted with permission from TheBestNotes.com Copyright  2006, All Rights Reserved

Distribution without the written consent of TheBestNotes.com is strictly prohibited.



The novel takes place in the summer of 1928 in Green Town, Illinois, a fictionalized version of Waukegan, Illinois.


Major Characters

Douglas Spaulding - A twelve-year-old boy who becomes aware of life and death over the course of the summer.
Tom Spaulding - Douglas' ten-year-old brother, still safely ensconced in the confident naiveté of childhood.
Grandfather Spaulding - Douglas and Tom's grandfather, who lives in the house next door, where they keep boarders.
Grandmother Spaulding - Douglas and Tom's grandmother, who is able to cook with great skill.
John Huff - Douglas' friend, who moves to Milwaukee mid-summer.
Bill Forrester - A young newspaperman and columnist who becomes involved in a near-romance with the considerably older Helen Loomis.
Leo Auffmann - The town jeweler and amateur inventor who seeks to create a Happiness Machine.
Lena Auffmann - The wife of Leo Auffmann who wishes to change his mind on the value of the Happiness Machine.

Helen Bentley - A widow in town who's collection of reminders and souvenirs kept her stuck in the past.
Colonel Freeleigh - The so-called Time Machine who tells Douglas and his friends stories from his one hundred years of experience.

Miss Fern - The co-owner of the Green Machine, sister of Miss Roberta and Frank………

Many additional characters are identified in the complete study guide.


Protagonist - Douglas Spaulding, a twelve-year-old boy who has suddenly become aware that he is alive.
Antagonist - Mortality, which comes in many forms: actual deaths; a growing self-awareness, and the transformation of life into a mechanized routine, symbolized by various kinds…..
Climax - Douglas almost dies from a fever but is saved by the…...
Outcome - Douglas grows wiser and more heroic as summer comes to an end, saving his…..


In the summer of 1928 in Green Town, Illinois, 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding realizes he is alive - that is, he becomes self-aware in a manner he had never been before, and is exhilarated by the new richness it gives everyday experiences, especially at the start of summer: the harvest of fox grapes, the making of dandelion wine, the purchase of new sneakers, the setting up of the porch swing. With his brother Tom, Douglas decides to keep track of the events of this summer in a tablet.
As the summer progresses, the boys become involved in adventures throughout town. Douglas faces the ravine, representing the danger of nature, and his seeming disappearance while playing there scares Tom and their mother. Grandfather Spaulding gives his boarder Bill Forrester a lesson on the value of mowing lawns and gardening. At Douglas' encouragement, Leo Auffmann tries to create a Happiness Machine but discovers that his family is most deserving of that title. Tom and his friends spend time with Mrs. Helen Bentley, who confirms the children's belief that old people were never children. Douglas' friend Charlie Woodman introduces him to the Time Machine, Colonel Freeleigh, whose stories and experiences go back a…….


Major Themes

The defining theme of Dandelion Wine is the struggle between life and death, between the joys of human experience and the inevitable surrender to mortality. How can one enjoy life, knowing it will end? What good are simple human pleasures if there is so much suffering and death in the world? These issues are universal, and risk becoming grandiose with little productive thought - but Bradbury often scales back the cosmic scope of this issue with related minor themes.
Another major theme, one which ties into issues of mortality, is the value of memory. It manifests in the nostalgia of a simpler time and place - that is, Green Town, Illinois in summer 1928. Bradbury assumes that a "simple" life of straightforward pleasures is the way one can feel most alive; it is, in……

Minor Themes

Related to the major themes are various minor themes that extrapolate on a specific view of what mortality is. There is the education of youth, the discoveries and growing self-awareness that comes……


The mood of the book is meant to capture Bradbury's sense of childhood: often solemn, intent on taking the business of growing up quite seriously. It is also filled with wonder and a strong……


As one of the best-known authors of science fiction, Ray Bradbury played a significant role in not only making the genre more widely popular, but also to legitimize the form critically among mainstream critics. His unique blend of poetic nostalgia, imaginative flights of fancy, and allegorical social commentary
Ray Douglas Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois. His family moved several times, returning to Waukegan each time, before settling down in Los Angeles in 1934. In his teen years he befriended another future legend of science fiction, Forest Ackerman, who published some of Bradbury's earliest…..


The novel was inspired by Bradbury's childhood in Waukegan, albeit one idealized from reality. Originally, the manuscript was twice as long, but at the behest of his editor Walter Bradbury (no relation), Ray Bradbury cut half the stories for a projected sequel, Farewell Summer. Farewell Summer has yet…..


Chapter One


Douglas Spaulding wakes up at his grandparents' house, where he is allowed to sleep over one night a week during the summer. Taking in the sensations of the morning and looking over his view of Green Town, Douglas calls out the waking of the town's various residents. In this manner, the summer of 1928 began.


Douglas' incantation to the town shows a child's sense of control in familiar surroundings: he is, in a sense, the master of his own universe precisely because he knows the behavior and routines of those around him. The Spaulding boys have a view of the world that is both solipsistic - the philosophical notion that the only confirmable truths are what one experiences - and narcissistic - the psychological belief that the self is the center of all events. That is the nature of childhood, Bradbury clearly implies, something that is part of the sense of invulnerability and immortality that comes with childhood. It is also something that Douglas must deal with as the story progresses.
On a metafictive level - that is, as a self-aware commentary on the writing of this story - Douglas is a stand-in for his namesake Ray Douglas Bradbury, who is indeed controlling the world of Green Town as its literary creator. The importance of Douglas' grandparents are established from the start, as well as the distinction between old people and children: while older people are important to the children of the novel, they are seen as entirely different kinds of beings because their present-day experience seems so removed from one another.

Chapter Two


After walking into a spider's web, Douglas senses something different will happen today. He and Tom join his father on a drive to a forest to collect fox grapes. Douglas is uneasy throughout this foraging, unable to deal with the sharpness of his sensory input even as his father warns of bees and his brother rattles off various enumerated lists of his experiences. As Tom describes a snow flake he'd saved from the winter, Douglas realizes what he's feeling: a new sense of being alive, a rush of vitality he'd never felt in his twelve years of life. When Tom asks what's wrong, Douglas grabs him and they roll down the hill in a fit of gleeful exuberance. Despite minor injuries from the spill, Douglas insists on carrying all the pails back to the car, puzzling both father and brother.


Douglas becomes aware he is alive - or rather, self-aware of the experiences of life - in a natural setting, keeping with the main themes of the novel. This self-awareness is so powerful that it comes out in a burst of playful violence, as he and his brother wrestle. The corollary of such a self-awareness of life almost immediately begins to manifest itself: that one is mortal and will die, that the rich experiences of life will eventually end.

Chapter Three


The same day, back in town, the Spaulding brothers go on a second harvest: their grandfather has asked them to gather dandelions to make dandelion wine. With his new awareness of being alive, Douglas finds special significance in gathering such this token of summer. Only water barrel would be used for the wine, which the boys collect with great care. In the winter, Grandma will come down to the cellar for a taste of the summer long-gone by that time, giving out portions of this elixir to those suffering from winter illnesses as she repeated the words over and over, "Dandelion wine."


The metafictive gesture in the creation of dandelion wine is obvious: the homemade concoction, like the book, captures a little bit of that summer in 1928. It is a ritual of summer built from a simple set of actions and an almost pagan respect for nature, emphasized by the care put into the gathering of the main ingredients, weeds and rain water. …..



Douglas Spaulding is the only character to go through any complex transformation in the novel, which deals with his awakened awareness of life and inevitable admission of mortality. His growth functions as a kind of summer school bildungsroman - that is, a novel of education - as he slowly gains wisdom over the course of the season. In keeping with a bildungsroman, he even keeps a tablet with notes, a metafictive subplot which foreshadows a future as a writer. While the positive aspects of this new awareness are tied intimately with the joys of summer, the fear of mortality in its various forms preoccupies his thoughts as the novel progresses. At one point he cannot even write down the truth of his own mortality in the tablet, despite all the evidence gathered.

This struggle against mortality hits a fever pitch in the last chapters of the novel. He becomes more active and heroic, wishing to preserve life and its pleasures instead of merely railing against the…..

The novel is essentially a series of related stories strung together by bridges or interludes, very much like The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. But where The Martian Chronicles had an omniscient narrator describing the progress of Mars' colonization by Earth and The Illustrated Man had a running subplot regarding the narrator and the titular character, the bridges in Dandelion Wine are……


The appreciation of life and its struggle against mortality drives the novel from start to end. Such a capacious theme encompasses a variety of related, less abstract issues that helps deepen and complicate this main concept. This includes the wariness of new technology and the threat of unfettered nature on humanity. In this way, disparate aspects of Green Town life - the novelty of the Green Machine, the danger of the ravine, Leo Auffmann's eccentric penchant for inventions, the threat of the Lonely One - take on…….


The style of writing often hinges on the sense of a nostalgia in the making - that is, the language seeks to capture the sensations and emotions of the main characters, but does so in a way that often acknowledges the ephemerality of these experiences. Thus, there are frequent lapses into a kind of prose-poem rhythm that is meant to be nostalgic in tone, solemn in its acceptance of what has passed. The narration is often quite…..


The novel begins with a series of new beginnings:

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer. (1)
We have here the start of a new day and season. For the inhabitants of Green Town, especially Douglas Spaulding, summer is a change in the world, a sudden burst of life. Notice the incantatory nature of the second sentence, building each detail within a clause, then ending with a trio of comforting words about "the breathing of the world" - a foreshadowing of Douglas' recovery from too much summer in Chapter Thirty-Six, when the power of life and its implications threaten to overwhelm him. Douglas is made aware of mortality and death almost immediately after becoming aware that he is alive. He faces the ravine in this passage:
It was this then, the mystery of man seizing from the land and the land seizing back, year after year, that drew Douglas, knowing the towns never really won, they merely existed in calm peril, fully accoutered with lawn mower, bug spray and hedge shears, swimming steadily as long as civilization said to swim, but each house ready to sink in green tides, buried forever, when the last man ceased and his trowels and mowers shattered to cereal flakes of rust. (17)…….

The most common motif in Bradbury's work is the wondrous nature of the everyday: though he is known for stories of the fantastic, most often science fiction and horror, he often points to the way seemingly mundane events are filled with an awesome power all their own. This is clear throughout much of this book, where the mundane world of Green Town in Summer 1928 is a source of much adventure and wisdom. Thus, one subtle motif in the novel is the notion that the small town as a microcosm of the world: that is, if you speak to the people and discover what they've experienced, the wealth of the world is available without having to leave one's home.

The main symbol of the book is summer itself. It is the season of life and, like life itself, each summer must end in the cycle of birth and rebirth. As a reminder of the need for balance, cold is seen as a respite from summer as well as a symbol of death: it is bottled cold air that saves Douglas when he become deathly ill from fever at the novel's climax. Nevertheless, Douglas and his family have a knack for saving what they can of summer. Dandelion wine is the titular symbol for capturing summer, bottling up a fraction of…..

  • Title: Dandelion Wine.
  • Author: Ray Bradbury.
  • Date Published: 1957.
  • Meaning of Title: A drink made from ingredients of summer, meant to bottle a part of that season.
  • Setting: Green Town, Illinois……


1. When does Douglas Spaulding first become aware he is alive?
a. Waking up at his grandparents home at the start of summer.

b. While picking fox grapes with his father and brother.

c. Staring into the ravine in the middle of town.

d. After the Lonely One tries to murder him.

2. What animals does Mr. Sanderson describe to refer to the sensation of wearing Douglas' new sneakers?
a. Antelopes and gazelles.

b. Bulls and bears.

c. Frogs and squirrels.

d. None of the above…….

Answer Key

1.) b, 2.) a, 3.) d, 4.) b, 5.) b, 6.) c, 7.) d, 8.) d, 9.) c, 10.) a, 11.) c, 12.) a, 13.) b, 14.) c, 15.) d.


  1. How accurately does Bradbury capture the sensations of childhood in the novel? Cite specific examples to support your answer.

Is there any way we can categorize stories in Dandelion Wine as a kind of science fiction? Choose specific chapters and explore them in light of this genre…….


Copyright ©2006 TheBestNotes.com.

Reprinted with permission of TheBestNotes.com. All Rights Reserved.

Distribution without the written consent of TheBestNotes.com is strictly prohibited.

TheBestNotes.com Copyright©2006. All Rights Reserved. No Distribution without written consent.

The full study guide is available for download at: http://monkeynote.stores.yahoo.net/

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