Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Coming of Age

By Ray Bradbury

Coming of Age

Still the man and boy stood there, the boy glowing, the man with revelation in his face. (5.47)

The day Doug gets Mr. Sanderson to try on the Cream Sponge Para-Litefoot sneakers, we see this awesome moment of an adult actually getting what a kid has to say. That's the "revelation" Bradbury's talking about.

"The reason why grownups and kids fight is because they belong to separate races. Look at them, different from us. Look at us, different from them. Separate races, and never the twain shall meet." (6.16)

Tom's understanding of genetics leaves something to be desired, but most kids have probably felt this way at one time or another. At what age do you think the two—as we know they eventually do—meet? How old are we when our child and adult brains are perfectly, precariously balanced?

"Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I'm one of them." (37.111)

One of the coolest things about Mr. Jonas's speech is that we never know whether Doug actually hears it or not.

"The idea!" said Mrs. Bentley to her dainty, rose-clustered teacup. "No one ever doubted I was a girl before. What a silly, horrible thing to do. I don't mind being old—not really—but I do resent having my childhood taken away from me." (15.57)

Interesting thought: When you refuse to believe someone's truth, you are stealing it from them.

She could see the children racing off under the cavernous trees with her youth in their frosty fingers, invisible as air. (15.58)

The past is invisible, except in our memories, which is why Mrs. Bentley has saved so many mementos. What's the difference between the event and the physical representation of the event? Can the latter ever really contain the former?

"Listen!" Mrs. Bentley seized the girl's wrist. "You must take these things on faith. Someday you'll be as old as I. People will say the same. 'Oh, no,' they'll say, 'those vultures were never hummingbirds, those owls were never orioles, those parrots were never bluebirds!' One day you'll be like me!" (15.93)

It's interesting that Mrs. Bentley uses entirely different species of birds for young and old. As we know, bluebirds don't grow up to be parrots, but this is Bradbury subtly reinforcing the idea of "separate races."

And to herself she thought, Oh, God, children are children, old women are old women, and nothing in between. They can't imagine a change they can't see. (15.96)

Is this true? Can you imagine a change you can't see? Try it.

"And it's kind of sad," said Tom, sitting still. "There's nothing we can do to help them." (16.17-18)

Is it really sad to grow from childhood to adulthood, or is it kind of awesome? After all, grownups can eat cookies for breakfast and cereal for dinner, stay up as late as they like, and watch whatever they want on television. The downside: paying taxes and giving up your dreams of being an Olympic gymnast.

"I'm writing it down here this way: 'Maybe old people were never children, like we claim with Mrs. Bentley, but big or little, some of them were standing around at Appomattox the summer of 1865.' They got Indian vision and can sight back further than you and me will ever sight ahead." (18.3)

We think Doug is missing one key point: Old people <em>have </em>to have been young; otherwise, they wouldn't be the time machines he admires them for being. They'd have nowhere back in time to go to.