Bradbury writes several times in Dandelion Wine about the ravine, the middle ground between civilization and untamed nature, with roads leading to both. What can be said about the interaction between these two forces throughout the book? Does Bradbury seem to favor one over the other? Why?
The ravine is an area that holds tremendous power in Dandelion Wine. Early on in the book, Douglas thinks about the continual war that is waged between the town and nature, and he considers the ravine to be the middle ground. So the ravine is not really a part of the town, or at least it is not under the control of the town. Therefore the ravine is suggestive of several different places. It can be a place of wonder, the gateway to the unknown wilderness where Douglas and his friends run each day. The ravine can also be a place of danger, for it represents the unknown, and Lavinia Nebbs finally loses her cool when she crosses the ravine alone the night that the Lonely One is prowling about. Likewise Mother and Tom feel fear the night that they search for Douglas.
In each instance where the ravine is mentioned there is ample room for interpretation. It is not clear, in the case of Lavinia Nebbs, whether it is town or country that is dangerous. Certainly she would probably be safe hiding in the woods somewhere. It is really in town where the danger lies, and the ravine simply must be crossed on the way to her house. But she ends up facing danger, not in the ravine, but in her home. It could be argued that Bradbury is in favor of nature. Yet Tom is rightfully glad when Douglas comes back from the wilderness and returns to his home because there are dangers in the unknown. Civilization can be counted on to some degree, and that is important. The different features of each encounter with the ravine need to be taken into account, as well as some of the other interactions between nature and civilization such as the fact that Douglas is in the woods the day he realizes that he is alive.
Tom, Douglas, and Grandpa Spaulding seem to represent three different stages of awareness, with Douglas somewhere in the middle and Tom and Grandpa Spaulding at opposite ends. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Use the relationships between these three characters and other examples from the book as evidence for your argument.
The key to answering this question is to take a stance on the relationships between Tom, Douglas, and Grandpa Spaulding. There is evidence that suggests that they really are at three different stages of awareness, such as at the end of the book when Grandpa says that at his age things blend together while Tom insists that he will always remember everything. Douglas seems to be moving closer to his grandfather at the end of the book. Yet at the same time Tom's answer can be viewed as different from his grandfather's only in terms of scope. Certainly Tom cannot remember what he did every day for the last two years, he is merely pointing out that he could remember what happened in the past week.
Most of the evidence comes from interaction between two of these three characters. From Douglas asking Tom about happy endings and Douglas convincing Tom that they must rescue Tarot Witch to Grandpa Spaulding cheering up a gloomy Douglas and Douglas concluding that he must die, there are many examples that can be argued in favor of supporting the statement or disagreeing with it. Regardless of the direction of the interpretation, what is important is to tackle several different examples so that enough evidence is gathered to make a convincing argument.
Before he leaves, John Huff shows Douglas that it is often difficult to remember certain things, even if they are important to us. How do you reconcile this statement with the fact that the entire book stems from Bradbury's recollections of childhood? It may help to take a look at a few of the other ways that memory is used in the book.
John Huff proves to Douglas that even when we want to remember something there is no guarantee that we can do so. In fact, it is quite unlikely that we will remember specific details. However, memory is not only about specific details. It is also about feelings and emotions. If Douglas were to forget what John Huff's face looked like he would still remember how much he cared for his friend. Helen Loomis uses her memories to bring pleasure to Bill Forrester, just as Colonel Freeleigh's memories make him a Time Machine to the boys. Memory is a feature of human existence in Dandelion Wine and it is not necessarily only about accuracy.
There are many examples of ways in which memory is used for other purposes than exact details, even in cases where details are necessary. Tom convinces Charlie Woodman and Douglas that the Lonely One is still alive by comparing their memory of what they imagined him to look like with their memory of what the man Lavinia Nebbs killed looked like. Bradbury's recollections of childhood, therefore, could be more focused on assessing the feeling of what it was like to be a child than the exact details of that time. Any number of arguments could be made based upon evidence from the text to show that memory works in many different ways.
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