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Free Online Study Guide for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

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8.) The emphasis on the here-and-now, on the immediate present, is something to be expected from the children. To have it advocated by someone who is dead stresses how valuable life is, how the best way to combat mortality isn't with memories but existing in the present day as much as possible. However, storytelling and memory does play a productive role in the novel, as Douglas recounts his encounters with Colonel Freeleigh to his brother:

"Tom," whispered Douglas. "I got to travel all those ways. See what I can see. But most of all I got to visit Colonel Freeleigh once, twice, three times a week. He's better than all the other machines. He talks, you listen. And the more he talks the more he gets you to peering around and noticing things. He tells you you're riding a very special train, by gosh, and sure enough, it's true. He's been down the tracks, and knows. And now here we come, you and me, along the same track, but further on, and so much looking and snuffling and handling things to do, you need old Colonel Freeleigh to shove and say look alive so you remember every second! Every darn thing there is to remember! So when kids come around when you're real old, you can do for them what the colonel once did for you. That's the way it is, Tom, I got to spend a lot of time visiting him and listening so I can go far-traveling with him as often as he can." (89)

The metaphor of trains helps to reinforce the notion of the human body as a machine, one that can traverse time and space through intellect and memory. It also provides a physical measure - the length of tracks - that helps illustrate the more abstract measure of time. Further, the way the human machine can become immortal by passing along its information - the continuity in a community - is seen by Douglas in the way his and Tom's Time Machines can pass along their own information when they grow old. However, Douglas' losses begin to weigh on him, such as the departure of his friend John Huff. During their game of statues, Douglas has one last chance to remember John while he stands still:

It was like that time years ago in Chicago when they had visited a big place where the carved marble figures were, and his walking around them in the silence. So here was John Huff with grass stains on his knees and the seat of his pants, and cutes on his fingers and scabs on his elbows. Here was John Huff with the quiet tennis shoes, his feet sheathed in silence. There was the mouth that had chewed many an apricot pie come summer, and said many a quiet thing or two about life and the lay of the land. And there were the eyes, not blind like statues' eyes, but filled with molten green-gold. And there the dark hair blowing now north now south or any direction with all the town on them, dirt from roads and bark-slivers from trees, the fingers that smelled of hemp and vine and green apple, old coins or pickle-green frogs. There were the ears with the sunlight shining through them like bright warm peach wax and here, invisible, his spearmint-breath upon the air. (109)

The analogy to a museum shows how the boy is a work of art in his own right, one as worthy of scrutiny and admiration as any statue. This is a loving portrait of boyhood - not just John Huff's, but of the abstract notion of boyhood in that time, at that locale. The images are poetic and show a strong eye for detail, for the various sensory input that comes with youthfulness. Douglas is trying to remember John, but is nonetheless angry at his friend's departure.

9.) He later asks brother Tom to stay with him for the rest of their lives, leading to this exchange:

"Like I say, you stick around and don't let nothing happen." "You can depend on me," said Tom.

"It's not you I worry about," said Douglas. "It's the way God runs the world." Tom thought about this for a moment.

"He's all right, Doug," said Tom. "He tries." (112)

The casual treatment of God - Douglas questioning how He runs the world and Tom providing a backhanded compliment in His effort - is not meant to be sacrilege. If anything, it shows a child's first grasp at philosophical questions: If there is a God, why does He allow evil in the world?

10.) This philosophical bent takes on another angle when Douglas considers the continuity of human achievement in a more scientific light:

Somewhere, a book said once, all the talk ever talked, all the songs ever sung, still lived, had vibrated way out in space and if you could travel to Far Centauri you could hear George Washington talking in his sleep or Caesar surprised at the knife in his back. So much for sounds. What about light then? 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 dropping multiboxed honeycombs where light was an amber sap stored by pollen-fired bees, or in the thirty thousand lenses of the noon dragonfly's gemmed skull you might find all the colors and sights of the world 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. This he would have to believe. (138-139)

There is a slight hint of science fiction wonder in this passage, of immortality in vibrations and lights. But as the description grows more poetic and more cosmic in scope, there is also a clear sense of desperation, of placing an outsized scale to individual experience. This is accentuated by the last line of the passage, a statement of faith towards science (as opposed to God) that such immortality is the best hope Douglas has.

11.) Other characters also face death in the novel, and Helen Loomis does so with a certain aplomb:

"In a few days I will be dead. No." She put up her hand. "I don't want you to say a thing. I'm not afraid. When you live as long as I've lived you lose that, too. I never liked lobster in my life, and mainly because I'd never tried it. On my eightieth birthday I tried it. I can't say I'm greatly excited over lobster still, but I have no doubt as to its taste now, and I don't fear it. I dare say death will be a lobster, too, and I can come to terms with it." (150)

Having lived a long life, Helen Loomis is wiser and more accepting of her inevitable mortality. The likening of her death to the tasting of lobster is meant to scale death down to size, to treat it as merely another experience - the final experience - which is now upon her. Douglas does not feel such equanimity and as the novel progresses questions the lack of happy endings in the things he experiences this fateful summer.

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Free Online Study Guide for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on Dandelion Wine". . 09 May 2017