"All Summer in a Day" Characters
The main characters in "All Summer in a Day" are Margot and William.
- Margot is a nine-year-old girl who has come to live on the planet Venus. Having left Earth at age four, Margot is the only child in her class who remembers the sun, which she tries to describe to her fellow students. The dismal climate on Venus has left Margot pale and miserable.
- William is one of Margot's classmates and her chief tormentor. Perhaps out of jealousy, he bullies Margot and encourages the other children to lock her in the closet during the brief "summer."
Last Updated on November 18, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 774
The figure at the heart of “All Summer in a Day,” Margot is a nine-year-old girl who moved to Venus from Ohio in the United States when she was four years old. Pale, quiet, and wistful, Margot is primarily defined by her acute yearning for sun and sunlight, of which she has vivid memories from her time on Earth.
Margot is depicted as always lost in her thoughts and aloof from the other children. Her refusal to participate in the children’s indoor games, as well as her introversion, makes the children resent her deeply. To the other children, she appears odd and bleached of color, like an old photo from a dusty album.
It is suggested that Margot may be from a different social class than the other children who were born on Venus; unlike them, she entertains hope of returning to Earth, even though her parents may have to spend “thousands of dollars” to bring her back. This privilege—both of having experienced life on Earth and potentially being able to return—makes the children hate Margot even more. Margot often describes the sun as a “penny” or a “fire in the stove,” and she writes a poem which compares the sun to a “flower / That blooms for just one hour,” suggesting that she possesses a poetic, sensitive nature. At the level of metaphor, Margot represents the suffering of the human soul removed from nature. She seems colorless from being away from the sun, much like the vegetation of Venus, which is described as the color of “cheese” and the “moon.” Margot is thus identified with nature on Venus, which is depicted as strange and abnormal due to the lack of sunlight.
William, Margot’s primary antagonist, is a nine-year-old boy who was born on Venus. Just a toddler the last time he glimpsed the sun, William, like the other children, has no clear recollection of the brief, fleeting Venusian summer. William leads the rest of the children in bullying Margot and is frequently depicted as exasperated by what he sees as Margot’s superiority. When Margot recites her poem about the sun before the class, William accuses her of not actually having written the lines. Described as a violent bully, William pushes and shoves the “frail” Margot with open aggression and encourages the rest of the children to “put her in the closet before the teacher comes.” As the ringleader of Margot’s tormentors, William shows how the loss of nature can foster cruelty and emotional numbness in children. On a broader level, as the counterpart to Margot’s sensitivity, William perhaps represents a brutish dystopian society intent on punishing intellectuals, artists, and poets.
Apart from William, the other children in “All Summer in a Day” are not named individually but are often referred to as “girl” and “boy.” This anonymity seems to be deliberate, suggesting the increased willingness of human beings to commit violence while in faceless groups: the children find it easy to turn on Margot simply because she is one, while they are many. The story leaves the question of whether the children would have locked Margot in a cupboard had they been fewer in number, open-ended. However, in addition to representing collective violence, the children are also symbolic of collective suffering. They are forced to live in an underground city, confined indoors by a never-ending downpour that lasts seven years. This lack of sunlight and warmth, which is all they have ever known, seems to stunt them emotionally, much like it physically stunts the diversity of tree species on Venus. When the children finally see the great “bronze” sun rise, they shed their cruelty and regain their innocence, delighting in playing and simply being children. Collectively, they also mourn the sun’s disappearance and are forced into greater maturity through this loss. This experience humanizes the children, bringing home the awful realization that they have robbed Margot of the one joy she has anticipated for the last seven years. Toward the end of the story, the children grow heavy with remorse and free Margot.
Present at the margins of the children’s activities, the teacher represents the inert and ineffectual adult world. Though the children are afraid of the teacher to some extent—careful to lock Margot up before she returns—they often ignore their teacher as well. The teacher is blind to Margot’s fate, a stand-in for the adult world which often ignores and infantilizes children. The teacher’s marginalization is also symbolic of a dystopian world order, where regular rules of order seem to have broken down.