Running through the town with his friends John Huff and Charlie Woodman, Douglas is left behind and so he stops to ponder the ravine. Separating the two sides of the town, Douglas sees in the ravine the endless dance between town and wilderness. He knows that the town must continually struggle to hold what it can against the forces of nature, since the wild, untamed land beyond town is always advancing. The ravine represents the battleground, and it becomes clear that running through the town and the wilderness is the way that Douglas will interact with these forces, the way he has always interacted with them. But something is wrong, and he stands still while the other boys run.
The solution to Douglas's problem becomes apparent while his family returns from the movie theater. He spies a pair of tennis shoes in the window of the shoe store. Not just any tennis shoes, the "Royal Crown Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Tennis Shoes" are what Douglas needs to be able to run. They are infused with summer, and he needs shoes that have the magic to do everything magical that summer requires. His father suggests that Douglas use last year's pair, but Douglas knows that they have lost their magic. The next day, in Sanderson's Shoe Emporium, Mr. Sanderson surprises Douglas. Mr. Sanderson knows exactly what shoes Douglas wants because he has seen him staring at them in the store window. Douglas convinces the old man to try on the sneakers, making him believe that he must truly know them to sell them. While Mr. Sanderson is standing in the brand new sneakers, Douglas makes him an offer. Either he can buy his pair and owe the man one dollar, or else, because of the speed that the shoes give him, Douglas will run through town and do all of the chores that Mr. Sanderson would rather not do himself. Douglas shows such passion in his belief in the power of the shoes, that his speech transports Mr. Sanderson back to his own childhood, when he dreamed of running like gazelles and antelopes. He gives Douglas the shoes in return for merely completing a list of things to do that day, because he was so pleased with the effect of the boy's speech.
Douglas gets out a pad of paper and a pencil while he and Tom are in their bedroom and tells his brother of his plan to keep his own lists. He points out that they do many of the same things each summer, and that a list of those things will make up half of summer but that the second half is made up of the thoughts that you have about those things. As an example he tells Tom how the bottling of dandelion wine is on the first list but that his idea that each time you bottle dandelion wine it puts aside some of 1928 goes on the second list. Tom is confused, so Douglas gives him another example: the first argument and fight he had with his dad is recorded on the first list but on the second list is the thought that kids and adults fight because they are from two different races. Tom understands and tells Douglas that since there are five billion trees and each had a shadow then night must come from all of the shadows coming out.
On the third day of summer Douglas and Grandpa set up the porch swing and the porch becomes the haven of activity that it is every summer. Besides the boys, Uncle Bert, Father, Grandma, Great-grandma, and Mother all make it outside eventually to talk away the evenings. Everyone else from the town comes by the porch at some time, and Douglas loves to just sit and let the talk and the sounds of summer wash over him.
Though only twelve years old, Douglas has a good understanding of the battle between civilization and nature. Douglas knows that this is a battle that civilization will never win, but he wants to participate in it by running through both town and country. The magic of summer allows him to dissolve this battleground and explore everything. Douglas needs a new pair of sneakers in order to run through the wilderness and the town simply because there is magic in the sneakers themselves, and this magic is used up by the end of summer. The sneakers therefore can be seen as a metaphor for the magic of summer: they give Douglas special powers to engage with nature but by the fall those powers are used up. The summer itself in Bradbury's novel is a time when people are in a sort of special communion with nature.
Because of Douglas, Mr. Sanderson relives for a moment the magical feeling of running through nature as if a part of it. The power of the memories of his childhood that overcome him while Douglas speaks is so great that he basically gives away the sneakers. He gives the sneakers away because he has received something in turn—Douglas gave him back some of the magic of summer as it is for a young boy. Summer is a magical time in this book for everyone, but for children, who are so much more wrapped up in the moment than adults, the magic is summer. And because he communicated this to Mr. Sanderson, Douglas gave him a gift every bit as important as the gift of the sneakers.
Take a Study Break
Every Shakespeare Play Summed Up in a Quote from The Office
Honest Names for All the Books on Your English Syllabus
Pick 5 Books and We'll Tell You What Netflix Show You Should Binge-Watch This Summer
QUIZ: Can You Identify the Shakespeare Play By Its Most Popular Quote?
Every Marvel Movie Summed Up in a Single Sentence
QUIZ: Are You a Hero, a Villain, or an Anti-Hero?
Pick 10 Books and We'll Guess Whether You're an Introvert or an Extrovert