Free Online Study Guide for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury |
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The only character who seems to go through a more extended development is Bill Forrester, who gains wisdom from Grandfather Spaulding in one chapter and more wisdom from Helen Loomis in another chapter. And yet these seem to be completely different sets of experiences, as Bill has no influence on the reader beyond these two chapters / stories.
Many of the oldest characters in the novel - Grandfather Spaulding, Grandmother Spaulding, Colonel Freeleigh, Helen Loomis - seem set in their ways, as if being founts of wisdom and experience keeps them from learning anything that's both new and useful. If anything, these characters are most threatened by changes in their routines: Colonel Freeleigh dies when his connection to the outside world is about to be cut off, Grandmother Spaulding loses her cooking abilities when Aunt Rose imposes a new efficiency.
As the novel's town elders, these characters are crucial to maintaining Bradbury's nostalgic view of his small town childhood, providing a philosophical bedrock from which other characters can benefit and learn.
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 more idiosyncratic and connect intimately to the stories they bring together.
All the bridges feature the main characters Douglas and Tom Spaulding, who serve as commentators on the events they witness. They provide very specific points of view - Douglas has his concerns about mortality, while the younger Tom maintains a child's reckless optimism - which furthers the novel's themes by its contrasting opinions.
For this reason, Dandelion Wine feels more coherent and novelistic than the other two novels, though all three works are at heart short story collections tied by a common theme and/or setting. It is certainly possible to read specific chapters in Dandelion Wine as short stories in their own right - that was how many were originally composed - yet Bradbury goes out of his way to make the fabric of town life permeate the stories.
There are frequent casual references to characters in other sections, especially with Douglas and Tom, and the timeframe of a single summer helps to further create a sense of unity. Thus, even stories as different in tone as the Elmira Brown - Clara Goodwater feud and Lavinia Nebbs' encounter with "The Lonely One" fit snugly in the Green Town established by Bradbury.
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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on Dandelion Wine".
. 11 May 2008