Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Ray Bradbury

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

And he knew what it was that had leaped upon him to stay and would not run away now. I'm alive, he thought. (2.55-56)

Doug experiences his epiphany that he's alive as a thing hunting him down in the woods, and it leaps upon him in the form of his brother jumping on him and punching him (playfully?) in the face. The pain of Tom hitting him makes him realize that he wants to feel everything, even discomfort.

I want to feel all there is to feel, he thought. Let me feel tired, now, let me feel tired. I mustn't forget, I'm alive, I know I'm alive, I mustn't forget it tonight or tomorrow or the day after that. (2.79)

It's pretty brave of Doug to immediately embrace the feelings that aren't necessarily positive—being tired, for example. Of course, we know he's eventually going to have to embrace feeling sad, or at least learn to deal with it before it destroys them.

"I'm alive," said Douglas. "But what's the use? They're more alive than me. How come? How come?" (4.14)

These are Doug's thoughts when he realizes his friends are outrunning him. Immediately afterward, he realizes it's because they have better shoes. Do material objects always contribute to our quality of life? And do speed, talent, or intelligence make a person more alive than someone slower, less talented, or less intelligent?

"I'm alive. Thinking about it, noticing it, is new. You do things and don't watch. Then all of a sudden you look and see what you're doing and it's the first time, really." (6.12)

This quote made us determined to do exactly that: Notice things as if for the first time. It's like a little carpe diem PSA.

"The first thing you learn in life is you're a fool. The last thing you learn in life is you're the same fool." (13.129)

Do you agree with Lena Auffmann's take on the trajectory of life? What do you need to learn in your time on earth to avoid dying as "the same fool"?

"It was worth it. I don't care. I was in a pure fever and I was alive. It doesn't matter if being so alive kills a man; it's better to have the quick fever every time." (25.35)

These are Colonel Freeleigh's words to the nurse who tells him he shouldn't overexcite himself by calling Mexico City on the phone. What do you think? Is the motto "live fast, die young" a good one, or would you rather live to be a time machine with a somewhat boring day-to-day existence?

There's the day I found I was alive, he thought, and why isn't it brighter than the others? (27.10)

Doug wants the dandelion wine bottled on the day of his epiphany to appear brighter than all the other bottles. But it doesn't. Because you know what? The world is a whole lot bigger than one life—and the dandelion wine is a subtle reminder here that Doug is just one of oh so many people.

"Time is so strange and life is twice as strange. The cogs miss, the wheels turn, and lives interlace too early or too late." (28.116)

This both seems to be a reference to fate—things are set in motion sort of mysteriously, as if by a higher power—and to fate derailed. It's an interesting tension.

Downstairs, she thought, they are polishing the silver, and rummaging the cellar, and dusting in the halls. She could hear them living all through the house. (32.41)

This is the last sound Great-grandma Spaulding hears before she dies. Have you ever thought about what you'd like to listen to in your final moments? It's a morbid question, but an interesting one.

And looking at one single label on a jar, he felt himself gone round the calendar to that private day this summer when he had looked at the circling world and found himself at its center. The word on the jar was RELISH. And he was glad he had decided to live. (39.10-12)

We love words with more than one meaning. Luckily, English is full of them: atmosphere, heart, dish, pawn… (See what we did there with the ellipses? Never say we can't whip out a Bradbury tribute when the occasion calls for it.)