In “All Summer in a Day,” the simile “they turned on themselves, like a feverish wheel, all tumbling spokes” compares Margot’s classmates to a spinning wheel. This image represents the children’s nervous anticipation of sunshine.
This simile describes their behavior after their teacher leaves the room. They eagerly rush to the window in a crowd to glimpse the “slackening” rain. Crammed together, the excited children push against each other while trying to spot this phenomenon. To them, this event is wondrous, because during their nine years of life on Venus, they do not recall witnessing a break in rainfall; the last time the sun came out, they were only two years old.
The verb “turned on themselves” can be interpreted in two ways—physically and emotionally. The children move about, twirling restlessly with impatience. They also are anxious and harbor pent-up fear and hostility in their expectation of the unknown. The bully William exemplifies these feelings.
The adjective feverish emphasizes how surreal their experience is and how out of sorts they feel—as if they are sick. Also, this description foreshadows the heat of the sun.
The “wheel” evokes images of childhood toys with wheels, like bicycles and scooters. Such mobile playthings, however, are ironic, because the children probably never had a chance to ride them due to the constant rain.
Finally, “tumbling spokes” mirrors the children’s frenzied physical actions. They move about anxiously and aimlessly—yet still go nowhere—like a spinning wheel going around and around in place. At this point, they can only gaze out of the window while awaiting their chance to run free outside. Like “tumbling spokes,” the individual children whirl about and fall over each other.