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Ray Bradbury’s 1954 short story “All Summer in a Day” portrays children behaving badly. When discussing a portrayal of “flaws in humanity,” however, it is a good idea to keep in mind that the children in Bradbury’s story are nine years old. Nine year old children know right from wrong, but they lack the maturity to always make the right decision, and errors in judgment are a part of growing up. That said, the aberrant behavior portrayed in “All Summer in a Day” involves a classroom of children eagerly anticipating a once-every-seven-years phenomenon: a brief break in the nonstop rain on the planet Venus accompanied by the appearance of the Sun. These children were two years old the last time the Sun was visible, and have no memory of that event. Margot, a sad, marginalized little girl is a late-comer to Venus and, as such, has vivid memories of sunshine from her life on Earth. Bradbury describes the mental scene as follows:
“Margot stood apart from them, from these children who could ever remember a time when there wasn’t rain and rain and rain. They were all nine years old, and if there had been a day, seven years ago, when the sun came out for an hour and showed its fact to the stunned world, they could not recall. Sometimes, at night, she heard them stir, in remembrance, and she knew they were dreaming and remembering gold or a yellow crayon or a coin large enough to buy the world with.”
The other children know Margot is as excited to experience a rare display of sunshine as them, but they ostracize her (“They edged away from her, they would not look at her.”) and commit an act of cruelty. After taunting her, Margot’s classmates
“. . . surged about her, caught her up and bore her, protesting, and then pleading, and then crying, back into a tunnel, a room, a closet, where they slammed and locked the door. They stood looking at the door and saw it tremble from her beating and throwing herself against it. They heard her muffled cries. The, smiling, they turned and went out and back down the tunnel . . .”
Bradbury presents a scene of almost unspeakable cruelty directed against that most innocent of victims, a little girl. They cause Margot to both endure imprisonment and to miss the brief exposure of the Sun. To the extent that the cruelty and pack-mentality portrayed in “All Summer in a Day” represents a “flaw” in humanity, then Bradbury’s story certainly qualifies.
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