All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury

“All Summer in a Day”

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For “Week 17” of the Deal Me In 2014 Short Story Reading Challenge, I drew the four of diamonds, which I had assigned to a story I’ve really been looking forward to reading, Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day.” The director of The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies here in Indianapolis had tantalizingly summarized it for me one day after a meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library’s book club, so I added it to my DMI2014 roster and have been waiting patiently “all year.” I’ve mentioned before that he has a knack for telling one the gist of a Bradbury story in such a way that one really wants to read it (e.g. The Crowd, which I blogged about before). All he said about “All Summer in a Day” was that it was set on a world where summer lasts only a couple hours and comes only once every seven years, and a bunch of schoolkids lock a classmate in a closet so that she misses it.

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The planet in this story is Venus. It seems amusing to us now, with our current knowledge of that world, with its crushing atmospheric pressure and sulfuric acid rain, that it was once imagined to be swampy and jungle-like. Bradbury had not the advantage of this knowledge when he was writing stories like this and “The Long Rain”  (also set on a wet, rain forest-y Venus). In this current story, Venus has been colonized by Earthmen in spite of its meteorological shortcomings.

The story is joined with the colonists on the brink of experiencing one of their rare “summers” – a time when the sun comes out if for only an hour – and centers around one of the more recent colonists, Margot. She’s a nine year-old student in a school where she suffers the worst affliction of that age – being different. While she grew up on Earth, her classmates have all grown up on Venus and don’t know what it’s like to have frequent sunshine. When the sun does shine on Venus every seventh year, it is only just briefly.

Margot writes a poignant poem for class:

“I think the sun is a flower,
That blooms for just one hour”

Her classmates are jealous of her poem and accuse her of not writing it herself. The other children don’t like Margot for, as Bradbury says, “reasons of big and little consequence”

“There was talk that her father and mother were taking her back to Earth next year; it seemed vital to her that they do so, though it would mean the loss of thousands of dollars to her family. And so, the children hated her for all these reasons of big and little consequence. They hated her pale snow face, her waiting silence, her thinness, and her possible future.”

First the other kids, crowded expectantly by the classroom windows waiting for the first glimpse of the sun, try tormenting Margot by saying that “it was all just a joke” and that the sun isn’t really going to make its appearance that day. The “scientists were wrong.” When she protests, one boy suggests they lock her in the closet “before teacher returns.” Swept away by that peculiar, unfeeling cruelty that children alone seem masters of, they carry out their plan…

Bradbury includes some great description of the effect of this rare summer event on the planet and its life forms, but for me the story was about the feelings it elicited. The despair of Margot, the realization of the other children of the magnitude of what they’ve done (or do they?). Only four pages, it’s a story you should certainly make time to read.

I don’t know if it’s an “authorized” site, but I did find this story online at http://staff.esuhsd.org/danielle/English%20Department%20LVillage/RT/Short%20Stories/All%20Summer%20in%20a%20Day.pdf

Watch a film version of the story (but READ it first, the film takes too many liberties imho) on YouTube  (thanks, Megan)

(below: The Planet Venus – the un-colonize-able version)

 

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18 Comments

  1. Cedar Station said,

    May 5, 2014 at 8:35 am

    This sounds incredible! I love Ray Bradbury. I read The Long Rain last year and thought it was really eerie, in a good way. I’ll have to try this one.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      I’ve read most of the stories in his “The Illustrated Man” collection. Almost all have “met with my approbation” 🙂

      Like

  2. Megan said,

    May 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I remember seeing a filmed version of this when I was young (I just found it on youtube, actually), and for years, every once in a while it would pop into my head because it really disturbed me. It wasn’t until a few years ago I finally looked it up online and read the story. It’s just so heartbreaking!

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 5, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      I’ll look up the YouTube video and add link to it the body of the post. Thanks for giving me the idea. 🙂

      Like

  3. Candiss said,

    May 5, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    This sounds wonderful! I’ll definitely be adding it to my story reads. Incidentally, my boyfriend (a huge Bradbury fan) was just talking about this story a couple of days ago and suggested I read it. Two recommendations clinches it for me. 🙂

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 6, 2014 at 7:29 am

      Bradbury was a short story specialist who claims to have written “one a week” for decades. That’s a lot of stories! I’ve connected with almost all the ones that I’ve read.

      I’m also thinking about doing a Bradbury mini-project next year – maybe in March – reading one story per day.

      Like

  4. May 5, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I was really struck by the description of the rain stopping, that lack of sound that you don’t even realize you hear until it’s gone. But I couldn’t stop thinking, “Oh, man. The HUMIDITY!”

    Like

  5. Dale said,

    May 5, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    I forgot that I had read this back in 2012:

    http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/another-summer-story-by-ray-bradbury/

    I think Bradbury had a thing for “summer”.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 6, 2014 at 7:31 am

      Thanks for reminding me you’d also tackled this story. I’d forgotten. I’m on a mini “summer kick” too, as I also just finished the William Dean Howells novel, Indian Summer. Hope to post about that one yet this week.

      Like

      • Dale said,

        May 6, 2014 at 6:26 pm

        Since it’s summer, I’ve decided to postpone my “trip” to Iceland. Just in case you wondered. Too many other things I want to read.

        Like

  6. Paula Cappa said,

    May 6, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I’m adding this to my list, Jay. Thanks.

    Like

  7. May 9, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    This is one of his best. He doesn’t so much have a thing for summer as he has a thing for nostalgia. Doesn’t Mars is Heaven also take place in the summer? That’s another one of his best short stories.

    I believe him when he says he wrote one story a week for decades. He made a decent living off of the magazine trade, which required lots of publishable stories.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 11, 2014 at 9:24 am

      A lot of the stories were written on a typewriter at the public library, which one could “rent” the use of for ten cents an hour or some small sum. Bradbury’s a fascinating character. I recently read the first volume of his biography “Becoming Ray Bradbury” – a scholarly work, but it gives one the sense of how prolific a writer he truly was.

      Like

  8. Wil said,

    May 3, 2015 at 1:39 am

    This story was my first exposure to Ray Bradbury, when I was seven (almost 40 years ago). I was on my way back to class from the bathroom, when I noticed a fifth-grade reading book on the floor in the hallway. I picked it up and opened it to a random page, which showed a picture of an open palm with a large drop of water in the middle of it. For some reason, that image compelled me to sit down and read the story.

    I simply cannot express how powerful of an impact it had on me. Another teacher found me sitting and crying in the hallway, and when she asked why, all I could do was ask why other kids are so cruel. She noticed what I had just read, and sent me to the office with a recommendation that I be allowed to go home for the rest of the day.

    There have been many other books and stories that have moved me in the decades since, but it is no exaggeration to say that none have touched me so deeply. Perhaps it was because I had just moved and was new in the school. Perhaps it was that I was an introverted outcast. Whatever the reason, it showed me for the first time how powerful the written word could be. Without that story, I cannot say I would have developed the love for reading that I still carry to this day.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      May 6, 2015 at 6:46 am

      Hi Will,
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your great story. I’m sure RB would have been happy to hear that his short story had such an influence on your reading life.
      -Jay

      Like


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