Dandelion Wine

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Out looking for wild grapes with his father and brother, Douglas wakens to the fact that he is alive. He confides his realizations to his brother, Tom, and records them in a yellow nickel pad as they accumulate through the summer.

Life’s bounty presents new tennis shoes, stories of buffalo stampedes by old Colonel Freeleigh, and the affection of and for John Huff, a neighborhood buddy. Family rituals provide another part of this goodness, especially the monthly gathering of dandelions for wine making. Grandfather Spalding supervises, but Douglas tends with eye, ear, and hand the mystery of preserving summer in the cellar. The bottles wait there to assuage winter’s chills and colds.

Douglas wishes wonderful summer would stay put. It will not. Beloved John Huff moves away. Tennis shoes wear. The storyteller dies. Another vision assails the boy: Douglas Spalding will die some day.

Less a plotted story than a flaring of richly described episodes, the book depicts the birth of the artist as a Midwestern boy. As well, it portrays the isolation of selfhood. However full Douglas’ experiences are, rupture jars them and creates anxiety. Life, initially so much a treasure, is open to doubt. Douglas utters “I hate you” to the disappeared John Huff, though he really addresses the fickleness of life. With determination, however, Douglas keeps his faith. The notebook fills up. Dandelion wine is gathered each month, an emblem of this faith.

The book works for the reader as a bottle of dandelion wine. The rich vintage of Bradbury’s remembered Waukegan boyhood will vivify any reader’s sense of his or her childhood. Anyone desiring to hear loud realistic acclaim for the cosmos that people mysteriously appear in and disappear from should not miss this book.

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

The Great Depression

Bradbury was born in 1920, and so was just nine years old when the Great Depression began,...

(The entire section is 460 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)


In Dandelion Wine, the setting of Green Town becomes almost another character. On the one hand,...

(The entire section is 602 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1920s: In the aftermath of World War I, the United States enters an isolationist phase, concerning itself with its own economy and...

(The entire section is 303 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Fahrenheit 451 (1953) is a disturbing look at the future when books are burned by firemen. Read this book, and consider the importance...

(The entire section is 174 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

Bradbury adapted Dandelion Wine as a musical several times, most notably in the 1967 Lincoln Center production. While reviews of the...

(The entire section is 42 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

The Martian Chronicles (1950) is a collection of intertwined short stories about a series of attempts to colonize Mars. Many critics...

(The entire section is 128 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)


Bradbury, Ray, Dandelion Wine, William Morrow, 2001.

———, “Just This Side of Byzantium:...

(The entire section is 371 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury. New York: Chelsea House, 2001.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” New York: Chelsea House, 2001.

Eller, Jonathan R., and William F. Touponce. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004.

Reid, Robin Ann. Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Touponce, William F. Naming the Unnameable: Ray Bradbury and the Fantastic After Freud. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1997.

Weist, Jerry, and Donn Albright. Bradbury, an Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor. New York: William Morrow, 2002.

Weller, Sam. The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury. New York: William Morrow, 2005.