Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Chapter 13

By Ray Bradbury

Chapter 13

  • Back to Leo Auffmann and the Happiness Machine. Let's take a look at a few of his major questions and how they relate to our current reality.
  • He wonders if a Happiness Machine should be something you could carry in your pocket. Smartphones, anyone? 
  • He wonders if they would then become such an obsession for the carrier that it would be as if the Happiness Machine was carrying them in its pocket, which sounds a lot like those people who can't have dinner with another human being because they're too busy checking to see if anyone's texted them. 
  • He decides that one thing's for sure: The Happiness Machine should be brightly colored. Just ask the people in the mall kiosks selling a million different iPhone covers if they agree. Chances are, they do. 
  • He looks up happiness in the dictionary and sees that it means, "pleased, contented, joyful, delighted, lucky, and fortunate." He calls to Lena to ask her if she feels these things. 
  • She stops slicing vegetables and tells him that cows are contented, and delight is for babies and old people. 
  • She asks him if he's noticed her laughing while she scrubs the sink.We kind of love Lena. 
  • They argue a bit about happiness, and while they're arguing, their dinner burns. She notes that the first time they've had a fight in twenty years, it was about happiness, and now "it's charcoal for supper." 
  • Leo sits on the porch that night listening to the neighbors talk. Every time they mention something that makes them happy, he writes it down. He's getting a little obsessed, and he's starting to ignore his family. 
  • But hey, he finishes the machine. 
  • Lena notes that he's lost fifteen pounds from the stress of trying to build it and is neglecting the people he loves. Happiness, indeed… She tells him that "man was not meant to tamper with such things." She also suggests that another week of this, and she'll bury him in his machine. 
  • Is anyone else thinking about video game addiction? Because we are. 
  • The next evening, the machine wakes Leo up. His son, Saul, has turned it on, and it's humming like crazy, and he goes out to see what's up with it. It's blowing out the odor of roasted chestnuts in the autumn streets of Paris. 
  • He decides that the whole family should try it out together the following morning—but Saul, who turned it on, has nightmares that night, and cries, "No, no! Over, over!" in his sleep. Leo wakes him and asks if he had a nightmare, but Saul can only sob. 
  • Lena's mad, of course. She and Leo argue again, and the argument ends with Lena agreeing to get into the machine and try it out once and for all. 
  • When she goes out to do so the following day, Saul cries and begs her not to, but she gets in anyway. 
  • The machine takes her on a virtual tour of the world. She sees Paris, London, Rome, and even the Sphinx; she thinks she's dancing to "The Blue Danube;" she smells beautiful perfume. 
  • And then she starts crying.Leo can't believe she could possibly cry; Saul can. 
  • When Leo turns off the machine and Lena gets out, she's not happy at all, but sad about all the places she's just traveled virtually but will never be able to visit in real life. 
  • When she comes out of the box, she tells Leo that the machine lies. It will, in fact, make people sadder. She wants to know how long you can look at a beautiful sunset. Sometimes what's beautiful about sunsets is that you see them and then get to move on to something else. A thing can't make you happy forever just by virtue of being there forever—sometimes things have to be left in the past or to the imagination, where they belong, so that you can go on appreciating your daily life. 
  • Leo won't accept this for an answer. He decides to get into the machine himself to see if there's something wrong with it. 
  • There is indeed: It overheats and catches on fire while he's inside. 
  • They let it burn. Saul calls the fire department to come put it out. 
  • That night, when Leo smells the bread Lena is baking, he gives thanks that it's real and not virtual bread. 
  • GS, Doug, and Tom walk by and see Leo in his house with his family. They smile, knowing that he's realized the real Happiness Machine was at his fingertips the entire time.

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