List of Characters
Lena Auffmann is married to Leo Auffmann and is the mother of their six children. She attempts to stop her husband from building the Happiness Machine and continues to be the voice of reason throughout the stories about the Machine. She tells Leo that he has made two mistakes with the machine: “You made quick things go slow and stay around. You brought things faraway to our backyard, where they don’t belong. . . .”
Leo Auffmann is the Green Town inventor. One evening when Douglas casually tells him to build a Happiness Machine, Auffmann undertakes what he believes will be his greatest invention. He works many long hours on the Machine, nearly destroying his health, his marriage, and his family in the process. After his son and his wife use the Machine to ill effect, he tries it himself, and is nearly killed in the ensuing fire. He realizes later that the real Happiness Machine is right in front of him, sitting on his own front porch: his family.
Mrs. Bentley is an elderly resident of Green Town, visited by children who refuse to believe that she was ever young. Under the constant pressure from the children, eventually Mrs. Bentley herself believes that she has never been young, that she has been seventy-two years old forever, that she does not have a first name, and that she has always lived in the same house.
Elmira Brown is a thirty-two year old woman married to the town postman. She is clumsy and often hurts herself; at the same time, she often blames others for her own problems. When she hears that her rival, Clara Goodwater, has received instruction manuals for becoming a witch, she believes that all of her tribulations have been caused by Clara casting spells. Although it appears that this is ridiculous, the ending of the story is ambiguous. How a reader ultimately receives Elmira largely depends on the reader’s reception of Clara as well.
Miss Fern is an elderly, unmarried woman who, along with Miss Roberta, owns the Green Machine.
Bill Forrester is one of the boarders at Grandfather and Grandma’s house who finds a special relationship with Helen Loomis.
Colonel Freeleigh is an elderly resident of Green Town who has lived all over the world. Charley Woodman discovers him and says that he is a Time Machine. Freeleigh shares his adventures with the boys in such a way that they feel transported to the time and place he describes.
Clara Goodwater is a young matron of Green Town and the President of the Honeysuckle Ladies’ Lodge. She has mail ordered books on witchcraft and magic, ostensibly for her cousin Raoul. She says that she is not a witch, in spite of Elmira Brown’s accusation. However, by the end of the story, it is not clear whether she is admitting to witchcraft, or humoring Elmira in a fit a guilt over the latter woman’s fall down the stairs.
Douglas and Tom’s Grandfather owns the boarding house where many of the characters of Dandelion Wine live. He is especially important to the story as the maker of dandelion wine. He pays the boys a dime a bag for the flowers, then he processes them through the press in his basement, making one bottle of the elixir for each day of the summer. Grandfather is also the character who decides when summer begins and ends by choosing the day on which to hang the porch swing, and then take it back in the house for the fall.
Douglas and Tom’s Grandma’s major role in Dandelion Wine is that of cook. Her meals are magical and unlike anything anyone has ever had. Each day she prepares large quantities of strange, delicious food for her family and for her boarders.
Great-grandma lives at the boarding house. Her role in Dandelion Wine is that of an elder wise woman who knows when it is time to leave this life. She is the character who explains to Douglas just what death is, and who offers him solace from his contemplations of the process.
(The entire section is 1,570 words.)