All Summer in a Day by Ray BradburyAll Summer in a Day is a science fiction short story by the American writer Ray Bradbury. It was first published in the March 1954 issue of “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction” before being included in a compilation. Ray Bradbury is in my view a unique author, who excelled at creating a fantastical feeling to all his speculative writing. In fact although his science fiction has a solid traditional base, the way in which he tells the tale, seems often more akin to fantasy.
Near the beginning of All Summer in a Day, we learn:
“It had been raining for seven years; thousands upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water, with the sweet crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands. A thousand forests had been crushed under the rain and grown up a thousand times to be crushed again. And this was the way life was forever on the planet Venus, and this was the schoolroom of the children of the rocket men and women who had come to a raining world to set up civilization and live out their lives.”
Just pause a while, and imagine this. Nonstop rain for seven years. No sun, no yellow brightness, no warmth or light that was not unnatural. The nine year old children of the families who had migrated from Earth to Venus found themselves idly “dreaming and remembering gold or a yellow crayon or a coin large enough to buy the world with”.
But for one child, Margot, her memories were more recent. She intrinsically knew her classmate’s deep-seated impressions:
“they thought they remembered a warmness, like a blushing in the face, in the body, in the arms and legs and trembling hands.
But such was not now their reality:
“they always awoke to the tatting drum, the endless shaking down of clear bead necklaces upon the roof, the walk, the gardens, the forests, and their dreams were gone.”
This was the children’s world, and for the main part they seemed happy in it. But the teachers had tried to prepare them for this momentous, once every seven yearly, occasion. To prepare for the actual day, they had constantly been reading about the sun and completing various classroom activities, such as writing a poem about it.
And then there was Margot, pale and drained, almost ghostly, “as if she had been lost in the rain for years.” She was depressed and had yearned daily for the sun she knew back on Earth. She tried to share what the sun was like, describing the sun as “a penny”, or “like a fire in the stove”. The other children, being too young ever to have seen it themselves, do not believe her, and she retreats, becoming ostracised and alone. Her poem was different, and her experience, so much more recent and intimate, led to the short metaphoric thought:
“I think the sun is a flower,
That blooms for just one hour.“
“the biggest crime of all was that she had come here only five years ago from Earth, and she remembered the sun and the way the sun was and the sky was when she was four in Ohio. And they, they had been on Venus all their lives, and they had been only two years old when last the sun came out and had long since forgotten the color and heat of it and the way it really was.”
Margot was different. She had not lived in this human colony on Venus for nearly all her life. So Margot was picked on; bullied either from envy or disbelief, or a little of both, by her classmates. And what of the rumour, that Margot may be taken back to Earth next year by her parents. Was this too, as the others insisted, a “lie”? Was it simply resentment of her claiming to have superior knowledge? Or was it that all too human fault, a professed disbelief in something that they secretly yearned to be true, this neighbouring planet with a magical sun, and wished to have for themselves? Most likely it was all these, in different combinations and proportions, for each individual child.
Would the sun really appear, as if by magic, that day? Or was that also merely a joke, playing to the children’s deepest desires?
“It was all a joke, wasn’t it? Nothing’s happening today.”
And so the scene for the tragedy is set.
Children, so often just living in the moment, do things impetuously. (view spoiler)[Thus it came about that they locked Margot in a cupboard. What a huge joke. But the sun would only appear for two hours, and Margot would miss it: miss perhaps the most marvellous experience of her young life. (hide spoiler)]
Was this, as one reviewer says, a “despicable act”. Can we have guilt without knowledge and experience? It seems unlikely, and the tragedy is that these children are at the stage where this moral sense is just budding, and incompletely formed. They will in the end be chastened by their own thoughts, and new awareness of what has been caused.
There was perhaps one true bully, (view spoiler)[William (hide spoiler)], who for some unknown reason may have stayed this way, unrepentant, all his life. But the others are affected by some primal urge which he brings out in them, and indeed lays dormant in all of us — as well as the more developed ability to feel compassion — before we learn to be “civilised”. A novel which was written just 5 years later, develops this theme to its logical conclusion. It is of course, “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding.
It is impossible to capture the fleeting but vivid impressions Ray Bradbury’s language conveys. His writing is full of metaphor and poetic imagery. He describes Venus as:
“the color of rubber and ash, this jungle, from the many years without sun. It was the color of stones and white cheeses and ink, and it was the color of the moon”.
And later he perfectly captures the children’s wonder, amazement and utter joy, at experiencing for the first time (except in perhaps a deep-seated vague memory from infancy) something so essentially primeval, and necessary to the human condition. However sophisticated scientific development had become, the “sun lamps” were never going to capture the same glorious, throbbing, heat of the sun, which has created a vivacity of colour throughout the jungle growth:
“It was the color of flaming bronze and it was very large. And the sky around it was a blazing blue tile color. And the jungle burned with sunlight.
The children were fascinated, mesmerised by the gigantic sphere:
“… most of all they squinted at the sun until the tears ran down their faces; they put their hands up to that yellowness and that amazing blueness and they breathed of the fresh, fresh air and listened and listened to the silence which suspended them in a blessed sea of no sound and no motion. They looked at everything and savored everything.”
They bask in its power, blissfully soaking up the life-giving sunshine.
(view spoiler)[And what of Margot, shut in a cupboard, frantically beating to make herself heard, somewhere in a distant corridor of the school? No teacher knew she was not outside with the others, and as for the children, Margot just did not register with them. The children’s experience of, and in, the moment was too profound. It was a simple as that. (hide spoiler)]
Some think this story is too short, or does not end properly. Some say it stopped just when they as readers had started to get interested. But for me, it is perfect. Yes, is is truncated, but this is purposely and elegantly constructed. It is not really a cliffhanger, but more designed to make us think about the mysteries and tragedies of human nature, social behaviour and learning.
Why write a drawn-out ending, which would merely spell everything out in a mundane way, when all the perceptions and events have been set out so clearly, in readiness for us to truly comprehend all its deeper aspects? We already know how each person in this story would feel. And surely this story is more about the human condition; about how we grow and learn, how we revel in our new experiences, but need to also learn how not to be cruel, or deny them to others in a thoughtless moment. This is maturity, and often a difficult concept for the young of our species to grasp.
Just before the devastating lightbulb moment of the ending, we witness one of the girls crying out, because she has caught, and is cradling, a huge raindrop in her hand. There had been just two hours of the wonderful, glorious, enchanting sun, and now it would stop again, and they would have incessant rain again, for seven more years. Everyone stopped, and stood for a moment, thinking about how wonderful the sun felt on their skins, whilst the rain clouds gradually moved in. Thunderclaps sounded, then came flashes of lightning, and the children ran back inside as the sun retreated again, and the rain began to fall harder.
And just as all the children paused for a moment, before re-entering the tunnels, to reflect on how wonderful the experience had been, (view spoiler)[they remembered Margot, locked in a cupboard. Margot, who had yearned so long and hard for this moment, ever since her family had relocated to Venus. Perhaps only now do they truly realise, that Margot had been telling the truth about the sun. And perhaps they begin to understand why Margot had been so obsessed and enraptured by her memories of the sun; to understand what a great blow it must have been for Margot and her family to sacrifice this, and come to live on Venus. (hide spoiler)]
We see here the dawning moment of a sense of morality, in our culture at least. We see the uncertainty, a sense of growing empathy. And yes, we see the guilt:
“They could not meet each other’s glances. Their faces were solemn and pale. They looked at their hands and feet, their faces down.”
(view spoiler)[ And Margot. How does she feel? Surely we can imagine, or get a glimmer of her utter dejection (hide spoiler)] more by pausing for a while, and feeling it for ourselves? We need just a few moments of quiet contemplation of this utter emptiness of being. This is why the ending is so timely.
We need the stillness; we need to experience and empathise. No words - they have all been said. For me, the story ends at precisely the right point. It has a near-perfect poignancy.
Yet I do hesitate before rating this at 5 stars, close though it comes. The speculative ideas hit home, and yet for 1954, the science seems a bit rickety. It belongs more to an earlier time, when little was known about our “other” neighbouring planet (as opposed to Mars, the one more usually featured in Science Fiction). From the 19th century onwards, Science Fiction writers had had free rein to speculate on what lay beneath its impenetrable cloud. It was know to be a similar size to Earth, and then was discovered to have a substantial atmosphere. Since it is closer to the Sun than Earth, this led to the the idea that the planet would be warmer, and habitable by humans.
In 1930, in Olaf Stapledon’s “Last and First Men”, he envisaged Venus as being mostly ocean, and having fierce tropical storms. C.S. Lewis’s 1943 vision of Venus “Perelandra” also portrayed a planet almost covered by an ocean filled with exotic aquatic life, much as Earth had been, way in the past, in the Cambrian Period. Others imagined swamps and tropical rain forests, more in line with Earth’s Carboniferous period. And a third group of writers worked from the theory that the cloud cover was water vapour, and that Venus is a hot, dry planet, in which the surface has dust storms, above which the atmosphere holds. As Carl Sagan said in 1978:
“all classic science‐fiction devices, are all, in fact, based upon earlier misapprehensions by planetary scientists.”
Even when this story was written, there was still a lack of verified knowledge about conditions on Venus. Astronomers knew Venus was covered in clouds, and as we have seen, many thought it might be wet. Yet the idea to me of creating a little bit of home, set amidst such different and harsh environmental locations, does not quite convince. Perhaps though, it should. After all, the early British explorers ludicrously insisted on taking various paraphernalia such as full evening dress, dining sets, chandeliers, and grand pianos, on their explorations into remote areas. But to me it does feel more like the 19th century, or early 20th, rather than mid-20th century.
I also wonder whether Ray Bradbury’s contention that after hundreds (if not thousands) more years of human evolution and adaptation, in his imagined setting of Venus, bullying would still be present. In his opinion, then, is bullying others who are deemed inferior so deeply-rooted in human nature, that it perpetuates across the centuries? Social mores are changing all the time, and what we accept as “normal” varies immensely just from one century to another.
Think how we in the 21st century now regard the Imperialistic heroes of old, who imposed what they considered their superior, civilised views, on a less developed country. Now the feelings against these erstwhile highly respected men, sometimes runs so high that if their statues are not removed from public sites, they are vandalised. For these reservations, scientific and sociological, I can’t just quite nudge it into my rare 5 star rating, although it’s a close thing. I find it, as I do the best short stories, very thought-provoking, and love Ray Bradbury’s lyricism.
All Summer in a Day is not just another story about bullying. It is a poignant tale, about ignorance, integration, the difficulties of being accepted into a new culture, and accepting difference. In a sense it is a version of an immigrant story, complete with jealousy, incomprehension — and resentment or envy of a financial lifestyle which may enable Margot’s family to go back home to Earth.
It also has a notable spiritual or mystical component. The sun gives life, and sustenance, which these children have never had. The children here are pale and colourless, not just literally and physically but also emotionally. They have been deprived of a fundamental need. We have little or no back story, but should it really surprise us that children in such a hostile environment would develop in a different, more hostile way, with different concerns? Is it surprising that they have less compassion, or awareness of difference, than children living on Earth?
The lack of sun has not only leached away the colour of their skins, but also their ability to develop compassion and empathy for other people. They do not gain this until they have experienced the sun’s life-giving rays for themselves. And the sun is not only life-giving to the colonists of Venus, but also to the landscape as well. It is almost impossible to imagine the reality of such a life, especially for those of us living in a temperate zone.
We see that without ever experiencing the gentle warmth of the sun, the children find it easy to learn to be bad-tempered and spiteful, and to mock what they do not understand. (view spoiler)[ Quite possibly the idea that they are being cruel by locking Margot in a cupboard never occurs to them. It is the sun itself which brings about the change; brings out their own warmth of nature. The sun makes them feel whole and strong, and brings colour into their lives.
But for Margot, for now, it has come too late. And yet the story leaves an optimistic opening for her future, back on Earth.
And for those regarded as the evil bullies, have they escaped from any sense of loss? No. (hide spoiler)]
At the end of the story, not only have they learned compassion, and will have the guilt of their actions in their minds for a long while, but also they have learned a sense of loss for themselves. From accepting the constant rain as their norm, now after the brief interlude of glorious sun, when the rain begins to fall once again, they are crestfallen, sorrowfully asking their teacher, “Will it be seven more years?” It will indeed be a difficult switch now for these children, back to the constant rain. Who has lost more?
“‘It’s like a penny,’ she said once, eyes closed.
‘No it’s not!’ the children cried.
‘It’s like a fire,’ she said, ‘in the stove.’
‘You’re lying, you don’t remember!’ cried the children.“
These children are no longer the same as they were, before what proved for them to be a miraculous, life-transforming experience. They have paid a high price, but they have come to learn what we all know. In Ray Bradbury’s profound story, the sun is a positive symbol of life, and our essential humanity. Even at the beginning of the story, the children pressed together to look out the window, “like so many roses, so many weeds.” It is the sun which gives us a broader range of emotion, gives us colour, life and hope — and sometimes the promise of tomorrow. The children are now no longer weeds, but have emerged into flowers.
“It was as if, in the midst of a film concerning an avalanche, a tornado, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, something had, first, gone wrong with the sound apparatus, thus muffling and finally cutting off all noise, all of the blasts and repercussions and thunders, and then, second, ripped the film from the projector and inserted in its place a beautiful tropical slide which did not move or tremor. The world ground to a standstill. The silence was so immense and unbelievable that you felt your ears had been stuffed or you had lost your hearing altogether.”
And oddly, perhaps serendipitously, Ray Bradbury himself died the same day as a very rare celestial event — a transit of Venus across the Sun — occurred.
Ray Bradbury: Short Stories Summary and Analysis of "All Summer in a Day"
This story is set on the planet Venus, where the sun shines for only two hours once every seven years. It opens on the day that the sun is due to make its appearance once again. Margot and the other children in her school on Venus are nine years old. Margot came from Earth to Venus five years ago. Therefore she accurately recalls the sun and the way it looked and felt as it shone on her when she was back in Ohio. However, this is not the case with the other children.
Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives. He once described himself more simply: "I am a storyteller. That's all IVe ever tried to be. Through this connec- tion of the imagined and the real, Bradbury's fiction challenges the reader to question where we might be headed and what we might learn about ourselves now. Imagine the Future In his fiction, Bradbury encourages his readers to try to imag- ine the wonders the future will hold: "Everything confronting us in the next thirty years will be science-fictional, that is, impos- sible a few years ago. Writer ourselves and our lives?
Venus has a peculiar climate: every seven years, the sun comes out for just two hours. The rest of the time, it rains—all day, every day. The planet is covered with thick jungles and unruly weeds , perpetually caught in a cycle of growth and destruction. Humans live underground in a network of tunnels, eagerly awaiting the very brief summer. When the story opens, a group of nine-year-old children are gathered excitedly by the window of their underground classroom. After seven long years, today is the day that scientists predict the sun will make its brief appearance; indeed, the rain seems to be slowing. One child, Margot, stands apart.
Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
an inspector calls audiobook free
Ray Bradbury: Short Stories
In "All Summer in a Day," a group of schoolchildren live on the planet Venus with their families. They are nine years old, and they are eagerly awaiting a momentous occasion. After 5 years of continuous rain, the scientists on Venus have predicted that the sun will come out today for a brief period of time. The children have only seen the sun once in their lives, but they were two years old and they don't remember how it looks or feels. To prepare for the day, they have constantly read about the sun and completed classroom activities, such as writing a poem, about the sun. This is true for all but one of the children. Margot , a thin, pale girl that the rest of the children resent for various reasons, lived in Ohio until she was five.
The story is about a class of students on Venus , which, in this story, is a world of constant rainstorms, where the Sun is visible for only one hour every seven years. One of the children, Margot, moved to Venus from Earth five years earlier, and she is the only one who remembers sunshine, since the Sun shone regularly on Earth. When the teacher asks them to write a poem about the sun, hers is:. She describes the Sun as "a penny", or "like a fire in the stove". The other children, being too young ever to have seen it themselves, do not believe her. Led by a boy named William, they bully and antagonize her, and just before the sun comes out, William rallies the other children and they lock her in a closet down a tunnel. As the Sun is about to appear, their teacher arrives to take the class outside to enjoy their one hour of sunshine and, in their astonishment and joy, they all forget about Margot.