What do the children learn from their experiences in "All Summer in a Day?"
The children learn that there are consequences to bullying.
In this story, a group of nine year olds on Venus lock one, Margot, in a closet during the one day a year that the sun comes out. They feel terrible afterwards, learning that they actually do have feelings and are not immune from empathy. Bullying can hurt both the bully and the victim.
On Venus it rains constantly. In fact, the sun only comes out once every seven years. The children in the classroom who are the subject of the story are all nine years old. They do not remember the sun. They were only toddlers. However, they have a transplant from Earth in their class who does remember the sun, and this makes her an outcast.
She does not play in the other children’s games, and seems more obsessed than the rest with the sun. She claims to remember it, because she saw it when she was on Earth.
And then, of course, the biggest crime of all was that she had come here only five years ago from Earth, and she remembered the sun and the way the sun was and the sky was when she was four in Ohio.
Worse than this is the rumor that Margot might be going back to Earth in a year, where she will see the sun again. The children’s jealousy of her is extreme.
The other children are cruel to her and ostracize her. Since she does not play their games well or engage with them, they do not know how to interact with her. They resent her and call her a liar when she describes the sun. It is their way of protecting themselves because of their longing for the sun.
On the day the sun comes out, the children’s frustration with Margot reaches a peak. They tell her it was a joke, and then lock her in a closet.
When the teacher arrives, the rain is stopping, and the children are so excited that they completely forget about Margot. The teacher asks if they are all there, and the children respond that they are. They enjoy their time in the sun immensely, and then ask the teacher if it will be seven more years before the sun comes out again. This realization causes one of them to remember where Margot is.
What they have done to her comes crashing in on them. Suddenly, they are no longer carefree children playing a joke. The horror of what they have done devastates them. They can’t move. As the rain comes down, each of the complicit children looks at each other.
They stood as if someone had driven them, like so many stakes, into the floor. They looked at each other and then looked away. … They could not meet each other’s glances. Their faces were solemn and pale. They looked at their hands and feet, their faces down.
The story stops as the children let Margot out, so we do not know what they say to her or how she reacts, or if they were ever punished by the teacher. The real consequences of their actions are psychological though. They have to live with what they have done. A little piece of their childhood is lost after this. It is a terrible, tragic thing to destroy a person’s hope like this, especially when you have heartlessly targeted an innocent victim.
Mob mentality is a kind of common giving up of control, so that no one person feels like taking responsibility for his or her actions. In this case, the children all acted together, with no one taking the blame. The effect is heightened by the fact that the victim is the only one who is actually given a name. The children are only referred to as “boy” and “one.” The group of children acts as one, and no one stops it. Yet once they realize what they have done, they are still children, and they regret it. They have learned that they may have acted as a group, but each one has to live with what they have done.