Douglas Spaulding wakes up at his grandparents' house, where he is allowed to sleep over one night a week during the summer. Taking in the sensations of the morning and looking over his view of Green Town, Douglas calls out the waking of the town's various residents. In this manner, the summer of 1928 began.
Douglas' incantation to the town shows a child's sense of control in familiar surroundings: he is, in a sense, the master of his own universe precisely because he knows the behavior and routines of those around him. The Spaulding boys have a view of the world that is both solipsistic - the philosophical notion that the only confirmable truths are what one experiences - and narcissistic - the psychological belief that the self is the center of all events. That is the nature of childhood, Bradbury clearly implies, something that is part of the sense of invulnerability and immortality that comes with childhood. It is also something that Douglas must deal with as the story progresses.
On a metafictive level - that is, as a self-aware commentary on the writing of this story - Douglas is a stand-in for his namesake Ray Douglas Bradbury, who is indeed controlling the world of Green Town as its literary creator. The importance of Douglas' grandparents are established from the start, as well as the distinction between old people and children: while older people are important to the children of the novel, they are seen as entirely different kinds of beings because their present-day experience seems so removed from one another.
After walking into a spider's web, Douglas senses something different will happen today. He and Tom join his father on a drive to a forest to collect fox grapes. Douglas is uneasy throughout this foraging, unable to deal with the sharpness of his sensory input even as his father warns of bees and his brother rattles off various enumerated lists of his experiences. As Tom describes a snow flake he'd saved from the winter, Douglas realizes what he's feeling: a new sense of being alive, a rush of vitality he'd never felt in his twelve years of life. When Tom asks what's wrong, Douglas grabs him and they roll down the hill in a fit of gleeful exuberance. Despite minor injuries from the spill, Douglas insists on carrying all the pails back to the car, puzzling both father and brother.
Douglas becomes aware he is alive - or rather, self-aware of the experiences of life - in a natural setting, keeping with the main themes of the novel. This self-awareness is so powerful that it comes out in a burst of playful violence, as he and his brother wrestle. The corollary of such a self-awareness of life almost immediately begins to manifest itself: that one is mortal and will die, that the rich experiences of life will eventually end.
The same day, back in town, the Spaulding brothers go on a second harvest: their grandfather has asked them to gather dandelions to make dandelion wine. With his new awareness of being alive, Douglas finds special significance in gathering such this token of summer. Only water barrel would be used for the wine, which the boys collect with great care. In the winter, Grandma will come down to the cellar for a taste of the summer long-gone by that time, giving out portions of this elixir to those suffering from winter illnesses as she repeated the words over and over, "Dandelion wine."
The metafictive gesture in the creation of dandelion wine is obvious: the homemade concoction, like the book, captures a little bit of that summer in 1928. It is a ritual of summer built from a simple set of actions and an almost pagan respect for nature, emphasized by the care put into the gathering of the main ingredients, weeds and rain water.
Cite this page:
Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on Dandelion Wine".
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