Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Chapter 15

By Ray Bradbury

Chapter 15

  • We meet a new character in this chapter: an old woman in the neighborhood named Mrs. Helen Bentley, who's "a saver." She saves "tickets, old theatre programs, bits of lace, scarves, rail transfers; all the tags and tokens of existence."
  • Which is why, the day Tom Spaulding and his friends Alice and Jane come by at the same time as the ice cream truck and Mrs. Bentley buys them all a treat, it's especially rude that the girls say they don't believe she was ever young like them. 
  • Tom's no better; when she tells them her name is Helen, he says, "I didn't know old ladies had first names." 
  • Ah, youth. 
  • She attempts to convince Alice and Jane that she was once young and pretty like them, but no dice—they're not buying it. They tell her so, and as they run off to play, she calls after them, "Once I played hopscotch!" 
  • She spends the rest of the day "slamming teakettles about" and vowing to teach "those insolent fiends" a thing or two. 
  • She gathers a few of her possessions into a perfumed handkerchief: a hair comb, some jacks, a ring, and a picture of herself at seven years old. When the kids come by later in the evening, she calls them up to her porch and shows them. 
  • Jane, who is obviously the super-brat of the universe, says the picture could be anybody. Mrs. Bentley gets super grouchy about that and tells her someday she'll be old, too. 
  • Here we get a sentence that could easily sum up Bradbury's major message: "…children are children, old women are old women, and nothing in between. They can't imagine a change they can't see." 
  • Then, just to be even more super-bratty, Jane takes the ring and Alice takes the comb. Tom, to his credit, tries to stop them, but no dice. 
  • Poor Mrs. Bentley sits trembling on the porch, thinking, "Oh, I'm empty, empty; it's part of my life." 
  • Then she remembers a conversation she had with the late Mr. Bentley, in which he pointed out that saving things will only hurt you later. He said, "It won't work. No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now." 
  • Wise man, that Mr. Bentley. 
  • So the next day, when the girls come back to ask if she has any more stuff to give them, she surprises them by inviting them into her house and telling them to take anything they want. 
  • Which works like killing bullies with kindness always has. (Take note: It's their Kryptonite. For reals.) 
  • They all become friends, and for the rest of the summer, the children go to her house and hang out with her on the porch. And when they ask her if she was ever young or pretty, she says, "Never in a million trillion years."

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