Dandelion Wine Summary

Creeping sense of dread
Grandfather, Tom, and Douglas were walking home one evening. Douglas encountered his friends
and rushed off happily to the ravine. Grandfather told him not to get lost, and he and Tom returned
It was nine at night and smelled like rain. Mother was ironing while Tom lied down. Right before
Mrs. Singer was about to close her ice cream shop down, Mother sent Tom to go get some. When
he returned he asked her what time Dad would be home from the lodge meeting and she replied
eleven or eleven-thirty.
Mother and Tom enjoyed their ice cream in the deep, quiet summer night. They listened to the soft
sounds of the outdoors. Mother began to worry about Douglas and told Tom not to get undressed
yet. She stood out on the porch and called and called for Douglas but there was no answer.
Suddenly Tom felt a bit cold inside. Douglas still did not answer. Mother told Tom they'd take a
quick walk.
Hand in hand, they headed down the street. There was no “life, light, and activity” – all was silent.
Mother commented that she wished his father was home and that she was mad at Doug for being
out since the Lonely One had been around, killing people recently.
Mother and Tom reached the ravine with its “dark-sewer, rotten-foliage, thick-green odor”. There
was a church nearby but it was not comforting. Tom thought about death. He was only ten and
knew little of it, but did know death was Great-Grandfather passing away, his baby sister cold in her
crib one morning, the Lonely One coming to kill three women in the last three years.
The edge of the ravine seemed like the edge of civilization. He trembled and felt his mother did so
as well, which surprised him. He thought being an adult meant the end of fear. He came to
understanding there was no strength or solace in growing up and that essentially everyone was
alone. The impact of the essential loneliness of life began to crush Tom. He had to accept that,
though, and act.
Tom tried to tell his mother that Doug was fine but she grumbled in a frightened voice about telling
him not to come here. There could be anything there – tramps, criminals, darkness, accidents, death.
Tom thought all of those types of small towns were lonely and full of horrors.
The silence fell; even the crickets stopped chirping. It felt as if the ravine was tensing up and that
something would happen any second…
Suddenly Douglas’s voice broke the spell and the sound of tennis shoes and giggling of three boys
were heard. The darkness, startled, pulled back in defeat. Mother put away her fear right away and
Tom knew they will never say anything about it. They all walked home.
The most beautiful sound in the world
Grandfather smiled as he was gently waking up. He heard a sound that, for him, was better than any
other – it was the sound of the lawn mower for the first time in summer.
Happily Grandfather headed downstairs, waving hello to his young neighbor Bill, a newspaperman,
outside the window. Grandma told him they won’t be needing the lawnmower much longer because
Bill had put in a new type of grass that never needed cutting.
Shocked, Grandfather went outside and Bill cheerfully told him about the grass that he took the
chance and put in for Grandfather as well. Grandfather was upset and scolded Bill for not
consulting him and for getting rid of things that allow people to savor time and their existence. He
paused and apologized for talking too much, but Bill said he would like to hear more.
Grandfather continued his lecture and called gardening a way to be a philosopher. He became even
more upset, however, when he learned that the dandelions would also be got rid of. He took out
three five-dollar bills and gave them to Bill and told him to remove that grass from his yard and that
while Bill’s motives were understandable and above reproach, they were not his motives. He
concludes that to him the sound of lawnmower really was “the most beautiful sound in the world”
and he’d miss it if it was gone and 'he'd miss the smell of cut grass” (52).
That afternoon Grandfather napped. When he woke up he heard the sound of a lawnmower and
looked outside. To his surprise and delight, he saw Bill enthusiastically mowing his own lawn with
the old grass back in its place.
Happiness Machine
Leo was still working on his Happiness Machine, brainstorming his wife who had no interest in
helping. She was frustrated that he seemed to think they were not happy and that he keept looking at
her like she was something new. He had also distracted her and her bread burned.
At the end of ten days and nights, Leo finished his machine. He wandered wearily inside and
announces to his children that the machine was done. Lena pointed out that while the Happiness
Machine was done, Leo had lost fifteen pounds, he hadn't talked to his children, his wife was
nervous and gained weight. Leo barely noticed this as he fainted to the ground in his immense
The next morning, he noticed a few men, children, and dogs had gathered near the machine. There
were many kinds of humming coming from it.
Leo was excited but Lena remained upset. She asked if the machine could find a new way for how
babies were born or make a 70-year-old 20, or comfort her if he had died. She went inside and he
dreamily thought about using the machine with his family tomorrow.
That night he heard his son Saul crying, but the boy would not tell him what was wrong. He
realized Saul had gone into the machine, though, but wondered why. Was the boy unhappy? He was
bothered. Out by the machine, he looked up at the window and the curtains flowing in the breeze
made it look like his son’s soul had gently escaped out the window. He went upstairs and closed it.
The next day, Lena announced she was leaving because she couldn't be there anymore. She then
said she would go into the Happiness Machine herself because she had to know what that thing was
that has upset her family.
The children and Leo gather anxiously outside the machine while Lena entered. They first heard her
delight as she shouted out places like Paris and Rome and said she was dancing, but suddenly she
began to weep. Leo was shocked. When Lena emerged she explained tearfully that the machine lied
and that she had never knew how much she wanted to go to Paris before but now she knew she
never could. She explained that the wonderful things in the world like sunsets are valuable because
they do not happen all the time.