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Free Online Study Guide for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

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DANDELION WINE - ONLINE STUDY NOTES / PLOT ANALYSIS


Chapter Thirty-Two


Summary

Tom wakes to what he thinks is a ghost, but is actually a jar of fireflies that Douglas now uses to write in his tablet in the dark. He has made lists of why you can't depend on things, then a list of why you can't depend on people, and is at the brink of other things and people pass along and die, then Douglas himself... but he cannot take this thought to its logical conclusion. Instead, he frees the fireflies and goes to bed holding the empty Mason jar.


Notes

Douglas freeing the fireflies is a foreshadowing of future acts of heroism. It is also a way for him to give back to the summer what belongs to summer, an admission that one cannot hold onto all of summer even as one tries to record and treasure it.


Chapter Thirty-Three


Summary

Douglas shows Tom the wax statue of the Tarot Witch in her case, but Tom doesn't understand why. Douglas is angered by this; he considers how he suddenly became aware he was alive, only to face death in so many forms and come to the inevitable conclusion that he, too, must die. Tom observes how lifelike the Tarot Witch looks and Doug tries to prove she is alive by putting a penny in the arcade machine's slot. However, nothing happens and they have to call for help from Mr. Black, the drunken arcade proprietor.

Instead, he puts an Out of Order sign on the machine, which distresses Douglas. He puts another coin in the machine and the witch writes a fortune for Douglas on a card, one predicting a long and lively life. Tom puts a coin in and receives his own fortune, but outside the boys discover Tom's card is blank. Douglas is panicked by this and realizes he'd been spending time in the arcade because it had been so safe and predictable until now.

The boys go to the library and Douglas fumes at how Mr. Black always threatens to kill the Tarot Witch; he thinks Tom's blank card is actually hiding a message she didn't want Black to see. Tom is doubtful of all this but Douglas lights a match to the blank card and, before it burns, sees the word Secours - which he just learned in a Charlie Chan film is a cry for help. Douglas now thinks that the Tarot Witch is Mme. Tarot, a human fortune teller who was imprisoned in wax and passed along from villain to villain over the centuries, including the significantly-named Mr. Black. Douglas wants to use a magic philter to fight Black but Tom has a plan of his own.


Tom heads off to watch some Keystone Kops at the arcade; Douglas later follows and sees what happened: after fifteen pennies, Black had taken the money out and obtained a magic philter of his own. Hidden, the boys watch as Black talks to Mme. Tarot and demands his fortune: the card he receives infuriates him, and he lashes out at the wax figure, punching through the glass case. Douglas cries out in alarm and Black notices, only to pass out on the floor. Douglas decides to rescuer Mme. Tarot from her case; Tom sees it as stealing but goes along with it. Black wakes up and gives chase to them, finally catching up in the ravine and wresting the wax figure from Douglas. He throws the figure down the ravine, then leaves.

Douglas goes to fetch Mme. Tarot, now abandoned and city property; he tells Tom to fetch their father. At midnight, the Spaulding boys and their father are in their garage, looking at the figure of Mme. Tarot. Douglas has decided to buy the Tarot Witch's case from Mr. Black the next day. Tom wants to see what machinery is inside the wax figure but Douglas tells him they should wait a year or two more. A blank card falls out of Mme. Tarot's sleeve and Tom asks what hidden message is on it; Douglas comes up with an elaborate answer, ending with the assurance that the brothers will live forever.

 

Notes

The saving of Mlle Tarot is Douglas' first major act of heroism: an attempt to think beyond himself and to save others, even if only in a bizarre flight of imagination. The story he creates about her - of a gifted woman smothered in a wax works - is another variation on the theme of technology outpacing humanity. It also emphasizes how important imagination is in Douglas as a stand-in for author Bradbury himself: the ability to see things others cannot, to propose ideas others wouldn't even contemplate (as seen by the skepticism and then wide-eyed acceptance of brother Tom) is hard-wired into the personality, a necessary a part of living as he does.

However, there is also a clear self-interest here: to save Mlle Tarot is to allow her to remain immortal, and to fight off his own fears of someday dying. To preserve the Tarot Witch is to preserve his own life symbolically.


Chapter Thirty-Four


Summary

Tom is outside, counting the number of times the cicada buzzes to calculate the exact temperature. Douglas looks at the thermometer on the porch and reads the temperature on it. Tom is angered by this, saying it's the inside temperature and not the outside. Douglas considers this and joins his brother in the counting.


Notes

We see another example of science versus nature, where Tom engages in the simple wonder of the cicadas and a basic formula. It takes time for Douglas to realize the importance of this.


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Free Online Study Guide for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

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