Dandelion Wine
Ray Bradbury
Contributed by Loretta Ingwersen
Motifs
Motifs are devices or structures that are used by artists or authors to help in the development of a theme.
Summer

The main symbol of the book is summer itself. It is the season of life and, like life itself, each summer must end in the cycle of birth and rebirth. As a reminder of the need for balance, cold is seen as a respite from summer as well as a symbol of death: it is bottled cold air that saves Douglas when he becomes deathly ill from fever at the novel’s climax. Nevertheless, Douglas and his family have a knack for saving what they can of summer. Dandelion wine is the titular symbol for capturing summer, bottling up a fraction of the season’s life-giving warmth in a natural elixir. With the attention paid to each bottle matching a specific summer day, it is a form of recording, much like Douglas’ and Tom’s list of rituals and discoveries. Both thus serve as metafictive devices, calling attention to the act of recording a specific summer - which is what Bradbury does with the novel itself.

Ravine

Nature is appreciated by many characters in the novel, but in limited doses or in a tamed form. In this light, the ravine is another important symbol of the novel, running through Green Town as a reminder of raw nature’s power over mankind’s achievements. With the threat it can pose to people, the ravine is also the strongest symbolic reminder of mortality - that death is an inevitable part of life - a point made most effectively in Lavinia Nebbs’ trek through the ravine in the chapter devoted to the Lonely One. The strongest actual reminder of mortality in the book is the surprising body count that accumulates: most notably, Colonel Freeleigh, Helen Loomis, the victims of the Lonely One, and Great-Grandmother Spaulding.

Nature of the Everyday

The most common motif in Bradbury’s work is the wondrous nature of the everyday: though he is known for stories of the fantastic, most often science fiction and horror, he often points to the way seemingly mundane events are filled with an awesome power all their own. This is clear throughout much of this book, where the mundane world of Green Town in Summer 1928 is a source of much adventure and wisdom. Thus, one subtle motif in the novel is the notion that the small town as a microcosm of the world: that is, if you speak to the people and discover what they’ve experienced, the wealth of the world is available without having to leave one’s home.

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