Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Technology and Modernization

By Ray Bradbury

Technology and Modernization

"How have we used machines so far, to make people cry? Yes! Every time man and machine look like they will get on all right—boom! Someone adds a cog, airplanes drop bombs on us, cars run us off cliffs." (8.6)

Leo Auffmann is pretty skeptical of machines for someone who makes his living building and repairing them. How might his job have led to this skepticism?

"Leo, leave off with the clock you're building. You'll never find a cuckoo big enough to go in it! Man was not made to tamper with such things. It's not against God, no, but it sure looks as if it's against Leo Auffmann. Another week of this and we'll bury him in his machine!" (13.21)

If Mr. Auffmann had had computer games, he'd have been one of those World of Warcraft casualties who forgets to drink water or sleep. Just sayin'…

"Listen." They listened. "The storage batteries are fully charged and ready now! Listen! Not a tremor, not a sound. Electric, ladies. You recharge it every night in your garage."

"It couldn't—that is—" The younger sister gulped some iced tea. "It couldn't electrocute us accidentally?" (19.27-28)

Interesting that the old ladies, whom you might expect to be set in their ways, are the only ones on the street willing to take the chance on this new contraption and its inherent risk of electrocution. 

"School busses!" Charlie walked to the curb. "Won't even give us a chance to be late to school. Come get you at your front door. Never be late again in all our lives. Think of that nightmare, Doug, just think it all over." (20.31)

What happens on the walk to the trolley stays on the walk to the trolley. 

YOU CAN'T DEPEND ON THINGS BECAUSE…

… like machines, for instance, they fall apart or rust or rot, or maybe never get finished at all… or wind up in garages… (33.10)

Leo Auffmann's Happiness Machine ends up not only in the garage, but in flames. Why do you think Doug mentions the garage, but not the fact that the machine burns up?

Her head bent down, one hand came to rest and a shuddering shook the machine as the other hand wrote, paused, wrote, and stopped at last with a paroxysm so violent the glass in the case chimed. The witch's face bent in a rigid mechanical misery, almost fisted into a ball. (34.31)

We see the machine suffering at the hands of humans here, rather than humans suffering at the hands of machines. An interesting twist…

Please, he thought, don't let the arcade fall apart, too. Bad enough that friends disappeared, people were killed and buried in the real world, but let the arcade run along the way it was, please, please… (34.51)

Despite Mr. Auffmann's warning about man and machine never getting along, Doug invests more and more of his sanity in them as the book goes along. What are the equivalent machines today—the ones in which we invest our sanity, on which we become dependent, even though we know there's always a chance they'll fall apart?

Here in the world of people you might give time, money, and prayer with little or no return.

But there in the arcade you could hold lightning with the CAN YOU TAKE IT? Electrical machine when you pried its chromed handles apart as the power wasp-stung, sizzled, sewed your vibrant fingers. (34.53-54)

Ah, how awesome the world must have been before people got all litigious. The inability to electrocute yourself at will for amusement is but one of the many casualties of human greed.

In the arcade, then, you did this and this, and that and that occurred. You came forth in peace as from a church unknown before. (34.55)

Interesting that a boy so invested in ritual should view an arcade as a kind of church. What other rituals bring us comfort, and in what other ways are churches like arcades?

But then he saw there was no bottom to the machine. Mr. Auffmann ran along on the ground, carrying the whole incredible frame from his shoulders.

"Happiness, Doug, here goes happiness!" And he went the way of the trolley, John Huff, and the dove-fingered ladies. (37.34)

It's significant here that Mr. Auffmann has to carry his machine on his shoulders, effectively making it part of his body. In Doug's fever dream, Mr. Auffmann's machine has actually, physically consumed him.