Douglas is left behind by friends who run ahead of him, left near the huge ravine in the middle of town, with its path towards the ice house. There he becomes aware of how the ravine represents the tension between man and nature, that the two have struggled against each other in a way that Douglas has yet to fully understand. He remains motionless at the ravine, despite calls from his friends, unsure of why he didn't feel as alive, suspecting it ties to the second ritual of summer.
The ravine is a fearsome force of nature to be respected, a complement to the beneficent nature of the fox grapes and dandelions: where we've seen nature as a symbol of summer and life, the ravine is a powerful symbol of mortality and death. Douglas feels alive in this dangerous area because it reminds him of the preciousness and ephemerality of his life: that is, the long-standing paradox that one can only truly enjoy life if one is aware of the imminence of death.
That night, on the way home from the movies, Douglas sees the Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Shoes in the window of Mr. Sanderson's shoe store. His father is less than impressed with the tennis shoes, asking why Douglas needs a new pair; Douglas can't quite explain, but he knows his old pair are dead inside, drained from last summer.
That night, Douglas tries to come up with reasons to get the shoes, and considers the money in his coin bank. The next day he returns to the store but Mr. Sanderson already knows which shoes he wants. Douglas asks him when was the last time he wore Litefoot sneakers - told it could have been up to thirty years ago, Douglas implores him to try on a pair. Sanderson humors him and Douglas makes his pitch: he will give Mr. Sanderson the money for his shoes, short one dollar. For that dollar, Douglas will put on the shoes and take advantage of the speed and vitality that Mr. Sanderson now feels in them, running errands until that last dollar is paid off. Sanderson takes this all in and does indeed sense something powerful in both the boy's words and the sneakers on his feet. He agrees to give Douglas the shoes, and writes out a dozen errands for him to perform that day. As Douglas rushes out, Mr. Sanderson stops him and asks how the shoes feel: like antelopes and gazelles? Sanderson basks in the image of animals running in the wild, before resuming his own life in civilization.
The purchase of sneakers is another ritual of summer, and even this seemingly ordinary act is invested with a pagan love of nature by Bradbury. The wearing of new sneakers is practically talismanic, calling upon the speed of animals to help on a hunt. In Douglas' case, the hunt is also ordinary - running errands to pay off the last dollar for the sneakers - but in this way invested with a power commensurate to his imagination.
Inspired by Tom's statistics, Douglas explains to his brother that summer is split between things done every summer, and things done for the first time. When Tom asks for examples of the latter, Douglas cites his sudden awareness of being alive. On a yellow nickel tablet, he makes two lists of categories: Rites and Ceremonies, then Discoveries and Revelations. As they start on their tabulation of summer, they discuss the dandelion wine ritual, and how grownups and kids fight because they're different races. They agree to update this list as events occur, and Tom immediately has a statistic: that night is made up of the shadows of the world's five billion trees crawling into the air.
This list-keeping is another metafictive gesture in the book: like the dandelion wine, it is a way to record and store a part of the summer of 1928. In a way, Douglas and Tom also serve as a Greek chorus for the stories in the novel: where they aren't central characters, these interlude chapters provide a chance for their perspective to inform those events.
Cite this page:
Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on Dandelion Wine".
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