Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Dandelions

By Ray Bradbury


Grandfather Spaulding loves to say profound and unusual things, like that dandelions are noble. Check it out:

"Every year," said Grandfather. "They run amuck; I let them. Pride of lions in the yard. Stare, and they burn a hole in your retina. A common flower, a weed that no one sees, yes. But for us, a noble thing, the dandelion." (3.8)

Say what? Aren't dandelions just weeds, plain and simple? Bill Forrester's sure sick of mowing them. But when he buys newfangled grass to keep them from sprouting again, Grandfather gives him a lecture, including the above quote. What he means here is that not only do dandelions provide wine (and, when Grandmother Spaulding feels like it, a batch of greens for dinner), they reconnect you to the earth. They:

"[…] turn you away from all the people and the town for a little while and sweat you and get you down where you remember you got a nose again." (12.23)

Okay, so the dandelions don't just represent getting in touch with the earth, they also represent getting in touch with yourself. That's what Grandfather's referring to when he says "remember you got a nose"—and because of this, we can also see a connection being drawn here between connecting with the earth and connecting with the self. It is an argument for closeness between man and nature, which is particularly interesting in light of Bradbury's arguments against machines in this book (more on that elsewhere in this section).

Grandfather Spaulding isn't just a proto-hippie, though—making dandelion wine is his version of saving mementos. If a book is a time machine (and it is—check out our thoughts on machine as symbols elsewhere in this section), it's also a time capsule—like a cellar full of wine-filled ketchup bottles or Mrs. Bentley's house full of trinkets. This book holds tight to summer just the way the dandelion wine does. As Grandfather puts it:

"Better than putting things in the attic you never use again. This way, you get to live the summer over for a minute or two here or there along the way through the winter, and when the bottles are empty the summer's gone for good and no regrets and no sentimental trash lying about for you to stumble over forty years from now. Clean, smokeless, efficient, that's dandelion wine." (40.24)

But why dandelions? Why not, say, those fox grapes Doug and Tom pick with their dad, or even the berries? Surely they'd taste better. Well, for all we know, Grandpa Spaulding's got a stash of those, too, but consider the significance of the dandelion: It's a weed that blooms for about five minutes, then spreads its seed and makes more weeds.

Kind of sounds like humanity, right? Which makes it all the more profound that Grandpa won't let Bill Forrester lay down that dandelion-killing grass. (For the sake of profundity, we'll focus on his desire to appreciate each and every dandelion and ignore the fact that what he wants to do with the ones he saves is crush their heads and turn them into booze.) If you've read up on machine as symbols already, then you know that Bradbury believes in people power—so insofar as dandelions represent humanity, well, then they'd best be saved.

On a more literal note, dandelions are yellow, like the sun, which represents summer, and they're exclusive to summer, the season which is, on the surface, what this book is about. In Chapter 3, Bradbury writes, "Dandelion Wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered." It's a time capsule meant to be opened and consumed before the next batch of dandelion grows, a snack to tide you over between summers—a reminder of warmer days during the cold of winter.

In other words, not only does Bradbury take you on a trip in his time machine, he pours you one for the road.

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