Monday, November 5, 2018
Drippy Days--and Ray Bradbury
Those of you who live around here (northeastern Ohio) know that it has been One Drippy Fall. Our sump pump is about to file a grievance with its labor union, and as dark clouds fill our skies almost every day, I find my mood in a descending elevator--a rapidly descending elevator. (Have the cables broken?)
Ah, but yesterday! Sunday! It was a gorgeous day. The sun was out, dawn to dark (which, of course, came an hour earlier: EST replacing EDT ... grrr), and I could feel psychological moods all over the region lifting--even soaring.
And then, of course, it was gone. Gloomy day today.
But yesterday, talking with Joyce, I thought of that 1954 Ray Bradbury story I used to teach now and then--"All Summer in a Day." (Link to the story--scroll down a little.)
The story takes place on planet Venus--in an elementary school that very much resembles one of ours--as well it should. It's a school for the children of the "rocket men and women who had come to a raining world to set up civilization and live out their lives" (Stories of Ray Bradbury, 532).
For seven years it rains every day; then the sun emerges for a brief visit of a single hour before retreating behind the dripping clouds for another seven years.
Our focus is on Margot, a little girl in the school. She's a quiet child, bright and imaginative. And so the other kids don't like her.
But Margot's "biggest crime"? (534). She'd been on Venus only five years; she remembered the sun from her years in ... Ohio! (Shows you how old the story is!)
This annoys the other kids so profoundly that, at recess, they lock her in a closet.
And then the sun emerges ... they all run outside ... surges of joy and wonder. For an hour (with the teacher's permission) they run around and play.
The rain returns. And back inside they go.
Then one girl remembers Margot in the closet.
"They walked over to the closet door slowly and stood by it.
Behind that closet door was only silence.
They unlocked the door ..." (536).
There's more--don't want to spoil the ending for you!
It's a story about human cruelty, isn't it--writ small? We begin early, we humans. Some of us grow up--and change. Others perfect the art of tormenting others, spend their lives practicing it--spend their lives closing doors on others, locking those doors so that other people will never see the sun. Or feel its warmth.