Why Dandelion Wine?

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury is the story of Douglas Spaulding during the summer of 1928. Douglas realizes he is alive in the beginning of the book, and this experience shapes how he views the rest of the summer. As the audience continues to read the story, they may wonder why Bradbury titles this book Dandelion Wine. Through Bradbury’s description of dandelion wine, the reader understands the question of why.

The first few chapters of Dandelion Wine have no mention of the title. Douglas wakes the town up for the first morning of the summer, and while on a fruit picking trip with his father and brother Tom, Douglas realizes he is alive. The chapter after Douglas’s revelation talks about dandelion wine and how the Spauldings make it in their cellar. Bradbury describes dandelion wine as “summer caught and stoppered” (13). Bradbury uses this idea to convey that dandelion wine can only be made during summer. The wine itself captures the memories of the day it was made. This first harvest of dandelions marks the beginning of summer. This batch of wine contains Douglas’s memory of self-awareness. Dandelion wine captures the memories of the summer, so the drinker has those memories for cold winter days (13). This idea of capturing memories is present throughout the entire story.

The importance of the actual dandelion wine to Douglas is very great for him. The summer of 1928 has so many important events for Douglas that he does not want to forget any part of it. His adventure begins after he realizes that he is alive; Douglas goes to buy a pair of Royal Crown Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Tennis Shoes. Douglas tries and succeeds to convince Mr. Sanderson that the tennis shoes will make him faster. Douglas gets Mr. Sanderson to try on those shoes, “Feel those shoes, Mr. Sanderson, feel how fast they’d take me? All those springs inside? Feel all the running inside? Feel how they kind of grab hold and can’t let you alone and don’t like you just standing there?” (23). He wants Mr. Sanderson to understand the importance of getting these tennis shoes. The shoes will allow Douglas to run faster, jump higher, and chase after his friends. Douglas wants Mr. Sanderson to remember how the shoes feel in the moment, so he, too, will understand how important these shoes are to Douglas. Buying new summer shoes signifies the start of summer. Douglas sheds his winter shoes in the store and leaves them there. This scene Bradbury writes is the first memory of the summer Douglas will want to remember, so it is a part of the dandelion wine batch.

Another significant event Douglas does not want to forget is his friend John Huff moving away from Green Town, Illinois. The two boys sit and talk about John moving, and John is worried that Douglas will forget about him. Douglas promises he will not forget John, so John asks him what his eye color is. Douglas cannot answer correctly, and this furthers John’s worry. John is worried that he will not be able to remember things about Green Town: “And what about all the things I did see here in town? Will I be able to remember them when I go away?” (105). John states that Douglas forgot his own mother’s face, so how can Douglas remember John? Douglas gets angry after John leaves to pack for Milwaukee and shouts that he no longer views John as a friend: “You, John! John, you’re my enemy, you hear? You’re no friend of mine!” (111). Despite his outburst, Douglas wants to remember his friend. The day John left is remembered in the next batch of dandelion wine.

The Spaulding boys are not the only townspeople who want to remember the summer of 1928 though. Bill Forrestter has an encounter with Miss Helen Loomis at the ice cream drugstore that leads to the two developing a great friendship that comes to an end when Miss Loomis dies. Bill spends a great amount of time with Miss Loomis and dislikes when she speaks of her death approaching. He speaks in short one-liners as Miss Loomis discusses her readiness for death (151). The friendship between Bill and Miss Loomis affects him deeply, and he struggles to speak after reading the letter Miss Loomis leaves him for after her death: “He tried the words again and again, silently, on his tongue, and at last spoke them aloud and repeated them” (154). Bill’s memory of Miss Loomis is too valuable to Bill for him to forget her. The dandelion wine the Spauldings make capture this memory for Bill, and he does not have to worry about losing it to time.

Another townsperson who has a memory she will not be able to forget is Lavinia Nebbs. Her encounter with the Lonely One shakes her up quite a bit, “The key fit. Unlock the door, quick, quick! The door opened. Now, inside. Slam it! She slammed the door” (175). Just the mere thought of being chased by the Lonely One has whipped Lavinia into a panic. She has yet to realize that the Lonely One is in her house, and she is already in a frenzy. She stabs the Lonely One with her sewing scissors after he tries to strangle her in her own home (178). Lavinia may want to forget that the Lonely One was after her, but she cannot. The memory is too vivid to forget, and the last batch of dandelion wine captures the Lonely One’s last attempt at murder.

Dandelion wine is made so a person can remember the summer during the cold of winter. It reminds the drinker of the month that the wine was made. Bradbury wants to convey how important these memories are to Douglas. The summer months are so far from the winter months that Douglas might forget some part of it. The dandelion wine he and his grandfather make helps him remember. Bradbury titles this work Dandelion Wine because the entire story is the memories from the summer of 1928, and dandelion wine itself keeps the memories tucked away in the cellar as they wait for a need of remembrance.

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