The world slipped bright over the glassy round of his eyeballs like images sparked in a crystal sphere. Flowers were suns and fiery spots of sky strewn throughout the woodland. Birds flickered like skipped stones across the cast inverted pond of heaven. His breath raked over his teeth, going in ice, coming out fire.
Douglas is conscious of the fact that he is alive, and he feels utter bliss. As if for the first time, he is truly aware of everything around him. Douglas learns that he is alive at the beginning of the book, and this awe and wonder at the beauty of life and the world we live in lasts in one form or another through the rest of the story. Although Douglas himself does not always hold firm to enjoying this sentiment, at no time during the book is the majesty of life itself forgotten. The dandelion wine takes on new meaning for Douglas because he sees each bottle as a little bit of magic, a tiny amount of life. Douglas' discovery is what sets him on the path toward the inevitable conclusion that he will die someday, but he reaches that end without losing hold of the magic that started the process.
He realized that all men were like this; that each person was to himself one alone. One oneness, a unit in a society, but always afraid. Like here, standing. If he should scream, if he should holler for help, would it matter?
Tom is out with Mother looking for Douglas at the ravine. The summer has just begun and Mother fears for Douglas because the Lonely One is around and it is very late at night. Tom realizes as he senses the fear in his mother that to some degree we can never be anything other than alone. We are always a part of a larger group, but we also have only ourselves to rely upon sometimes. It is possible that relying on ourselves might not be enough. Tom understands, although he is only ten years old, that there is evil out there that we might have to confront, and when we do so, there will be no one there to help. Although a community can bring aid, there are times when civilization is too far away.
"Sure," he murmured. "There it is." And he watched with now-gentle sorrow and now-quick delight, and at last quiet acceptance as all the bits and pieces of this house mixed, stirred, settled, poised, and ran steadily again. "The Happiness Machine," he said. "The Happiness Machine."
After Douglas made the ill-fated suggestion to Leo Auffmann that he invent a Happiness Machine early in the summer, Leo spent most of his time working on the machine. It was only when the machine threatened to destroy his family that Leo realized how foolish the endeavor was from the beginning. He realizes now that his family is the only Happiness Machine he will ever need and the only one that he will ever want. His wife Lena had been trying to tell Leo this, but he wanted to make the town happy. Finally Leo understands that happiness is not something to be perpetuated by a machine but rather his way of life. Simply living with his wife and children is happiness for Leo Auffmann.
"They sat quietly and listened," said the colonel. "And I told them things they'd never heard. The buffalo, I told them, the bison. It was worth it. I don't care. I was in a pure fever and I was alive. It doesn't matter if being so alive kills a man; it's better to have the quick fever every time."
Colonel Freeleigh says this to his nurse only a few minutes before he dies. She was scolding him for talking to Douglas, Tom, and Charlie and getting so wound up. He defends the boys and describes beautifully the symbiotic nature of their relationship. He told them about things that they could only have dreamed about, and they made him feel alive and young again. The colonel was severely physically handicapped for the last years of his life, and to him a few moments of youthful vigor was worth more than wasting away. Colonel Freeleigh does not welcome death, but he does not fear it either, and there is no way that he would give up a moment of living to stave it off. He then lives up to his words because his next phone call to Mexico City provides him with the last agitated moments of his life. He dies living, just as he wanted.
"Important thing is not the me that's lying here, but the me that's sitting on the edge of the bed looking back at me, and the me that's downstairs cooking supper, or out in the garage under the car, or in the library reading. All the new parts, they count. I'm not really dying today. No person ever died that had a family. "
Great-grandma Spaulding explains to Douglas why he should not be sad for her and why she is not upset to be leaving. She has many family members surrounding her, and she will live on in their memories and actions. Great- grandma can tell that Douglas is troubled by death, and so she gives him an answer to it, even though there is no real answer. She says that she is no longer the person she once was but that parts of her have been passed on to others. By passing some of yourself on to your family you gain immortality. Douglas understands the message, but he is too young to have passed on any of himself, and soon afterward in the climax of the book he comes very near to meeting death himself. But at the end of the book Douglas knows that the cycle will continue and that even if an individual life is extinguished, another one takes its place.
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