Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 509

Dandelion Wine is a popular book that has never been out of print since its first publication in 1957. Often assigned to students in junior and senior high schools, Dandelion Wine is a book much-loved by readers and critics alike. Nevertheless, the book did not receive as much early attention as it might have. As George Slusser in his article “Ray Bradbury” in the Dictionary of Literary Biography notes in 1978, although Bradbury is an important writer, he has “unjustly suffered from critical neglect.” Likewise, Marvin E. Mengeling, in his 1971 article “Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine: Themes Sources, and Style,” in English Journal, argues that although “Ray Bradbury happens to be one of America’s major prose writers. . . . his works have been abysmally neglected by critics.”

Like a number of later critics, Mengeling addresses this need in both the English Journal article, published in 1971, and much later in his book Red Planet, Flaming Phoenix, Green Town: Some Early Bradbury Revisited, published in 2002. Mengeling reads Dandelion Wine from an archetypal perspective in both sources, noting in the latter that “Dandelion Wine. . . is Ray Bradbury’s first major imaginative attempt at reconciliation with his past and family. More specifically, it is Bradbury’s first tentative step toward reconciliation with the Father.”

In addition to Mengeling, many other critics note the archetypal patterns Bradbury uses in Dandelion Wine. For example, John B. Rosenman in the South Atlantic Bulletin looks specifically at the heaven and hell archetype in both Faulkner’s “That Evening Sun” and Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. He argues that the ravine is “mysterious and malignantly alive.” Further, the ravine “exert[s] a primal terrifying force and exude[s] an ominous menace that pervades the work with an air of expectancy and suspense.”

In one of the only readings that accounts for gender in Dandelion Wine, Robin Anne Reid argues that the book “focuses on the masculine world.” Further, while Reid writes positively about Dandelion Wine, she also notes that the novel “does an excellent job of showing the initiation and maturation of a man in a traditional patriarchal culture, but its theme is not universally applicable to everyone, especially to women.”

Finally, another approach that critics often take is a consideration of Bradbury’s theme of childhood in his work. Damon Knight, in a much reprinted critique, offers a negative view of this treatment in Dandelion Wine: “Childhood is Bradbury’s one subject, but you will not find real childhood here. . . .” He further accuses Dandelion Wine of being a “glutinous pool of sentimentality.” Lahna Diskin, however, takes a much deeper look into Bradbury’s children in an important essay, also reprinted in several volumes. She examines all of Bradbury’s children, focusing particularly on Doug and Tom from Dandelion Wine and the boys of Something Wicked This Way Comes. She writes of the children, “Their most outrageous actions are instinctive ploys against the inevitable doomsday of exile from childhood. Thus, in both books, the boys live at the quick of life, marauding each moment. They are afire with ecstatic temporality, resplendent immediacy.”

 

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