Dandelion Wine
Ray Bradbury
Contributed by Loretta Ingwersen
Chapter 5
Summary

That night, on the way home from the movies, Douglas sees the Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Shoes in the window of Mr. Sanderson’s shoe store. His father is less than impressed with the tennis shoes, asking why Douglas needs a new pair; Douglas can’t quite explain, but he knows his old pair are dead inside, drained from last summer.

That night, Douglas tries to come up with reasons to get the shoes, and considers the money in his coin bank. The next day he returns to the store but Mr. Sanderson already knows which shoes he wants. Douglas asks him when was the last time he wore Litefoot sneakers - told it could have been up to thirty years ago, Douglas implores him to try on a pair. Sanderson humors him and Douglas makes his pitch: he will give Mr. Sanderson the money for his shoes, short one dollar. For that dollar, Douglas will put on the shoes and take advantage of the speed and vitality that Mr. Sanderson now feels in them, running errands until that last dollar is paid off. Sanderson takes this all in and does indeed sense something powerful in both the boy’s words and the sneakers on his feet. He agrees to give Douglas the shoes, and writes out a dozen errands for him to perform that day. As Douglas rushes out, Mr. Sanderson stops him and asks how the shoes feel: like antelopes and gazelles? Sanderson basks in the image of animals running in the wild, before resuming his own life in civilization.

Analysis

The purchase of sneakers is another ritual of summer, and even this seemingly ordinary act is invested with a pagan love of nature by Bradbury. The wearing of new sneakers is practically talismanic, calling upon the speed of animals to help on a hunt. In Douglas’ case, the hunt is also ordinary - running errands to pay off the last dollar for the sneakers - but in this way invested with a power commensurate to his imagination.

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