Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Memory and the Past

By Ray Bradbury

Memory and the Past

Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living; this was the first morning of summer. (1.1)

Memory is transformative in this book, it has the power to transport characters to other times and places. Here, Doug's memory allows him to recognize freedom when he sees, feels, smells, tastes, and touches it.

Well he felt sorry for boys who lived in California where they wore tennis shoes all year and never knew what it was to get winter off your feet… (5.12)

Doug appreciates summer even more because he suffered through the winter—in summer, he remembers winter and enjoys what is different during this warmer season. It's kind of like how Lena Auffmann appreciates sunsets a lot more because they only happen once a day—recollection allows for anticipation, and then, appreciation in the moment.

Mr. Sanderson stood in the sun-blazed door, listening. From a long time ago, when he dreamed as a boy, he remembered the sound. Beautiful creatures leaping under the sky, gone through brush, under trees, away, and only the soft echo their running left behind. (5.60)

After Doug convinces Mr. Sanderson to try on the sneakers, and Mr. Sanderson watches Doug run off in a new pair like a speedy wild animal, he stands remembering his own boyhood. The echo of the imaginary animals is Bradbury's metaphor for Sanderson's recalling of his past.

Deep in winter they had looked for bits and pieces of summer and found it in furnace cellars or in bonfires on the edge of frozen skating ponds at night. Now, in summer, they went searching for some little bit, some piece of the forgotten winter. (29.19)

We appreciate things more when we have to search for them, remember them, and look forward to them. Dandelion wine, of course, is a piece of the forgotten summer preserved for winter. By searching for a piece of the winter in summer, Doug and his friends are searching for the past in the present. In a way, it's the same thing Colonel Freeleigh's doing when he goes time traveling.

The rocking chairs sounded like crickets, the crickets sounded like rocking chairs, and the moss-covered rain barrel by the dining-room window produced another generation of mosquitoes to provide a topic of conversation through the endless summers ahead. (7.12)

Here's one of many nods to ritual in <em>Dandelion Wine</em>. In this case, Doug's remembering how the adults have always talked about mosquitoes, and taking comfort in the fact that they have fodder for more nights on the porch saying the things they always say. In what other ways are rituals important to memory? 

"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 summers' 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)

Do you agree with Grandfather Spaulding's assessment that it's better to create finite, useful mementos than the kind that hang around forever? Why might this be?

"[…] remember every second! Every darn thing there is to remember! So when kids come around when you're real old, you can do for them what the colonel once did for you." (18.8)

The sentiment behind Doug's recording of events in his notebook could be seen as a little obsessive, similar to how people today can be so busy taking pictures of an event for Facebook that they're not really enjoying it fully in the moment. Recording your memories can actually interfere with creating them at times.

They shut their eyes. The memory-play began again. An old straw hat on an iron trunk was suddenly flourished, it seemed, by the man from Gumport Falls. (19.24)

Miss Fern and Miss Roberta are experiencing the downside of memory: rumination. Why is it that we're so often compelled to obsess about the mistakes we've made in our past instead of recalling the good times we've had?

[…] and the motorman murmured on and on, and the children felt it was some other year, with Mr. Tridden looking wonderfully young, his eyes lighted like small bulbs, blue and electric. (20.18)

In recounting his memories for the boys, trolley conductor Mr. Tridden causes them to see him in an entirely different way. When adults become time machines in <em>Dandelion Wine</em>, children see how their memories change and animate them, even if they can't quite believe the adults were ever young. 

June dawns, July noons, August evenings over, finished, done, and gone forever with only the sense of it all left here in his head. Now, a whole autumn, a white winter, a cool and greening spring to figure sums and totals of summer past. And if he should forget, the dandelion wine stood in the cellar, numbered huge for each and every day. (40.54)

Here again, Bradbury goes back to the idea that we need glimpses of the past in the present to give us hope. We can also use our memories to assure us that something worth living for is right around the corner.

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