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Free Online Study Guide for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

 

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CONFLICT


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 of machines.

Climax

Douglas almost dies from a fever but is saved by the junkman Ned Jonas.

Outcome

Douglas grows wiser and more heroic as summer comes to an end, saving his imagination (in the form of the Tarot Witch) and his family (from the meddling of Aunt Rose in his grandmother's kitchen).


SHORT SUMMARY (Synopsis)


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 hundred years.

However, the awareness of life is accompanied by a creeping awareness of mortality. Douglas is distressed when Miss Fern and Miss Roberta have an accident while driving their Green Machine, only to abandon driving the electric-powered vehicle ever again. Mr. Tridden the trolley conductor gives the children of the town a last trip on the trolley to a picnic, as the trolley is to be replaced by buses. Another of Douglas' friends, John Huff, moves away from town, while Tom becomes a pawn in the supposedly magic-driven feud between Elmira Brown and Clara Goodwater.

Colonel Freeleigh dies when his one connection to the outside world, the telephone, is taken away from him. Bill Forrester develops the start of a romance with the considerably older Helen Loomis, but she dies soon after. The Lonely One stalks the women of the town, but ends up killed by one of his potential victims, Lavinia Nebbs. And Douglas' own Great-Grandmother dies, though she assures Douglas that as long as she has family, she never truly dies.

Alarmed at all these developments, Douglas is still not able to admit his own mortality, that he too will eventually die. However, he finds the strength to rescue the Tarot Witch wax figure from the arcade and its drunken owner, Mr. Black. At the peak of summer, on its hottest day, Douglas falls ill with fever and seems close to death himself, but is saved by bottled air delivered to him by the junkman Ned Jonas. Knowing he must pass along this act of kindness, Douglas has his chance when Aunt Rose visits his grandparents: Aunt Rose ruins Grandmother Spaulding's cooking with her efficiency and measurements, so Douglas restores the chaos of the kitchen to save Grandma's cooking ability. Summer finally comes to a close, but Douglas comes out of it wiser and more self-aware.


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Free Online Study Guide for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

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