Dandelion Wine Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 52 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Dandelion Wine.
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Dandelion Wine Summary & Study Guide Description

Dandelion Wine Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Reading and a Free Quiz on Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.

Sections 1—10

Because Dandelion Wine is what is sometimes called a composite novel or short story cycle, the plot does not follow the kind of development one would expect from a novel although the same characters continue to interact throughout the book.

Nevertheless, it is possible to break the book up into sections for discussion. In this first section, Douglas Spaulding opens the book by standing in the cupola of his grandparent's home and willing Green Town to life: "He folded his arms and smiled a magician's smile. Yes, sir, he thought, everyone jumps, everyone runs when I yell. It'll be a fine season. He gave the town a last snap of his fingers. Doors slammed open; people stepped out. Summer 1928 began."

In the next chapter, Mr. Spaulding takes his sons Tom and Douglas to the forest to gather wild berries. While there, Doug knows that something big is about to happen. Suddenly, he is overwhelmed by the sense of being alive and of being part of all that is alive. Later that day, the boys help their grandfather make the first batch of dandelion wine for the summer, the first ritual of summer.

In the second ritual of the summer, Doug obtains his new tennis shoes, shoes that he is convinced will allow him to run faster and farther than any shoes he has ever had before. He then opens a tablet and writes in it with his Ticonderoga pencil the first entry of his diary of the summer. He tells Tom that he intends to divide the diary into two parts: Rites and Ceremonies, listing things that they do every summer; and Discoveries and Revelations, a place where he will record what he thinks about the rites and ceremonies. Doug's writing in the notebook becomes an important structural device for the novel.

Sections 11—19

The story then turns to Leo Auffman, who decides to invent a Happiness Machine. However, although the machine shows everyone wonderful things, it brings pain and sadness to anyone who tries it. It eventually goes up in flames; but Leo finally understands that his family is the real Happiness Machine.

Next, the children visit old Mrs. Bentley. They refuse to believe that she was ever young, even when she shows them items from her youth. Eventually the children persuade her that they are right and that she has always been old. Doug later writes about this, and he and Tom decide that old people never were children.

Charlie Woodman then tells the boys that he has found a Time Machine in the person of Colonel Freeleigh, an old man who tells the boys many, many stories about the past. Doug, writing about this later, calls it "far traveling." Later, Doug returns to talk to Colonel Freeleigh and finds him dead.

Sections 20—30

Things begin changing for Doug and Green Town about section 20. Mr. Tridden, the trolley driver, tells everyone that the trolley is being decommissioned. He takes everyone for one last ride. In addition, Doug learns that his best friend, John Huff, is moving to Milwaukee. Doug wants Tom to promise never to leave. He is worried about God, and the future. Doug has learned the difference between playing dead and being dead, and it frightens him.

In section 28, Bill Forrester and Doug meet Miss Helen Loomis at the ice cream parlor. Bill Forrester accepts an invitation to go to the old woman's house for tea, and consequently begins spending everyday with her. It is clear that the two love each other very much; but for their ages, there would have been a romance. Helen dies later in August; however, there is an indication that perhaps during the next go around of life, the two might be in the right place at the right time and not miss each other.

Around this time, the Lonely One is reintroduced into the story. A frightening, mysterious figure who haunts the ravine, the Lonely One has been killing women all summer. In section 29, Lavinia Nebbs and her friends cut through the ravine on their way to the theater and stumble on the body of another woman. Doug is in the ravine with them, and is badly shaken. Lavinia insists on going to the theater anyway. Walking home alone through the ravine, she is frightened by footsteps behind her. She races to her home, locks the door behind her, and breathes a sigh of relief. It is then that she realizes that the Lonely One is in the house with her.

The next day the boys tell the story of Lavinia killing the man with her sewing scissors. They decide that this cannot really be the Lonely One. Doug remains shaken, and suddenly realizes that he, too, will die.

Sections 31—40

Doug and Tom next visit the arcade only to discover that the Tarot Witch, a wax figure who tells fortunes, is not working. Doug becomes convinced that she is being held captive and needs to be freed so that she can tell them the truth about the future. He steals her with the help of Tom and Father, but she does not reveal anything but a blank card. Shortly after this, the town is caught in an extreme heat wave, and Doug falls deathly ill. All are afraid that they will lose Doug.

Late one night, the junkman, Mr. Jonas, visits Doug while he is sleeping under the apple tree in the yard where his family has left him in the hope that it will cool him off. Mr. Jonas gives Doug magic cool air to breathe, and this cures him. The next day, rain falls on the town and Doug begins to write again.

In a final story, Aunt Rose visits Grandma and Grandfather's boarding house. She decides to set Grandma's kitchen straight, and in so doing, destroys Grandma's ability to cook. Doug sneaks into the kitchen late at night and undoes the damage. The boarders send Aunt Rose away.

In the final section, summer is over, and the porch furniture comes back into the house. Doug, standing in the cupola once more, commands the town to go to sleep.

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