Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Setting

By Ray Bradbury

Setting

Green Town, Illinois, Summer, 1928

Green Town represents every small town everywhere: There's basically one of everything, and everybody knows each other. If you say you're going to the shoe store, people know you're going to see Mr. Sanderson. If you say you gave the leftover wallpaper to the junk man, they know it means Mr. Jonas stopped by on his wagon, and they probably know the name of his horse (we don't, because Bradbury never tells us, but they probably do.)

The setting for Doug Spaulding's particular story consists largely of his parents' house, his grandparents' boarding house, and the neighbors' porches. What's cool about such a narrow geography is that it reminds you how huge and magical your own house, street, and town can be when you're a little kid.

Doug's bedroom in his grandparents' attic is his castle; he's pretending to be the ruler of the street at the book's beginning and end, and because his surroundings are so limited, his timing's gotten really good. He tells the neighbors to turn the lights on and they come on. He says, "Everyone yawn. Everyone up" (1.12), and the next thing you know, Grandfather's popping in his dentures and Grandma's frying up some hotcakes.

In the larger sense, this is a book about America. Green Town is growing and expanding because that's the American Dream. The trolley's being replaced by a bus, as we see in Chapter 20 when Charlie Woodman laments, "School buses! Won't even give us a chance to be late to school. Come get you at your front door" (20.31). The amphitheater gave way to the movie theater, and the old arcade's seen better days.

And just to throw in one more change that makes Doug's summer truly cruddy, his friend John Huff's family hops on the train and goes to seek their slice of the American pie in Wisconsin, prompting Doug to run a miner-forty-niner fantasy of West Coast gold past Tom. Should they get to be "real old—say forty or forty-five someday," Doug says, "we can own a gold mine out West and sit there smoking corn silk and growing beards" (22.7). Since nothing stays the same anyway, as Doug's learning rapidly that summer, why shouldn't they?

In 1928, the Black Tuesday stock market crash is still a year away, the Great Depression is two years away, and the kind of limitless expansion and fortune that drove the prospectors to California seemed possible to Americans. Likewise, adolescence is still a year away for Doug, making the America of Dandelion Wine the perfect setting for his still-nearly-boundless imagination. 

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