Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Change is constantly occurring. Nothing in this world remains the same for long. People, places, feelings, perspectives, and everything else either grows, changes, dies, or is replaced. The inevitability of change is expressed in Ray Bradbury's novel, Dandelion Wine.
Dandelion Wine is a reminder of summer; of warmer times for twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding; an attempt to hold onto what is already past. Douglas has fallen into one of life's common traps: getting used to a routine; believing that things will always go as they have gone before. At the start of the summer, he starts a list of all the familiar rituals of summer: first mosquito, first time almost drowning in the lake, first root beer pop, first dandelion harvest, and many more. Although it seemed so at the time, all these familiar comforts weren't static and unchanging. And during this summer especially, change would reign.
The summer of 1928 is the beginning of the end of childhood innocence for Douglas Spaulding. He realizes people you know can die, as demonstrated by his great-grandmother and by the victim of one of the Lonely-One's escapades. (A person who wandered through towns strangling women once a month.) He witnesses true sadness and loneliness when a neighbor builds a happiness machine which, unfortunately, only causes misery. It is a failure because it makes people desire things that never entered their minds before by setting the ideas out before them. He learns that old people were young once too, even the best new sneakers must eventually wear out, and trolleys that have been around forever can be closed down. Finally, Douglas realizes he is alive, in a moment of ceasing to take things for granted, and seeming to see all the wonders of the earth and the universe with virgin eyes.
By the end of the summer, Douglas is very different as far as his perspective of the world is concerned. Instead of seeing it as a place of unchanging ritual, it has now taken on the appearance of a place of death, change, but also possible happiness and comfort. Whether consciously or not, he is now aware that he is alone in the world and must create his own reality.
Reality is change. With change, everything will die, but without it we would die also. The difference is, with change we last longer, die off, and are replaced at different times, but without it, death would blanket the earth - we'd die without replacements - and there would be no chances for re-growth. n
Review by J. C., Winsted, CT
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.