Earlier today I happened upon a post about the Ray Bradbury short story, All Summer in a Day. I became very interested in his post because I too remember reading the story in middle school, and like the blogger, I have thought about it ever since.
In essence the story is about life on Venus where it rains daily. It centers on a classroom of children who are told that the never ending rain does in fact end, once every seven years, but only for a couple of hours. The children are nine years old which means that the last time the sun was out, they were too young to remember. One of the girls, Margot, is different. Her parents moved their family to Venus when she was four years old. Their prior residence was on Earth, where the sun is not scarce. Unlike the other children she can remember the sun and all its glory. Since Margot can remember the sun she is also sad and lonely for her past life. She is tired of the rain and to some extent, has not adapted to her new life. She is quiet, aloof, perhaps depressed and as such, very different from the other kids.
Margot’s experience with the sun and her memory of it brings out envy in the other children. She can describe the sun; its warmth, its brightness, its appearance. The fact that her parents are contemplating moving back to Earth because “it seemed vital to her that they do so, though it would mean the loss of thousands of dollars to her family” causes the other children even more envy at the idea that her future would be brighter than theirs.
Her excitement about getting to see the sun that day, while kept mostly to herself, becomes obvious as she and the other children anxiously await the sun’s appearance. While the teacher is out of the room, one child in particular teases her, telling her that its all a joke and the sun will not appear. The rest of the kids join in. She is adamant that the scientists are correct and the sun will come out. To her horror the children pounce on her and drag her into an interior closet without windows where she is trapped and locked away. Despite her cries and pleas she is not noticed absent as the teacher allows the others to play in the sun; the sun that in fact did appear as predicted.
When the weather changes, and the rain comes again, the children are sad knowing that they won’t see the sun again for seven years. It is only then that they remember that they left Margot in the closet and that because of them her chance to see the sun was ruined. They slowly let her out of the closet.
As a young middle school student, reading this story made me so sad for Margot. I was so angry that someone could be so cruel for no other reason than to hurt her. Those kids gained nothing by taking something away from Margot. They didn’t become better people. They didn’t understand the sun any more or any less. All they did was take away something from someone to prove that they could.
So imagine my reaction when I read the blogger’s last few sentences:
“I wonder. How many people in my life do I leave locked in the closet of darkness while I bask in the love and glow of Jesus?
How long will I continue to keep the light of God from those who desperately need a Savior, who are weary of being kept a prisoner of darkness, while the rest of us go to church and carry on with the benefits of God’s heavenly light?”
What? (Insert sound of tires screeching to a halt) Did he just say that people want to know God and only he can light the way? I hoped I was reading it wrong or at least he didn’t quite express himself clearly. So I read the comments on page and his replies. No, he meant it.
Here’s what I think. First, Margot was the victim! She knew her own truth. THEY did not want her to enjoy it. She had a vivid memory of what she KNEW and she was happy with her thoughts. THEY were not happy with what she had known for years so they punished her for it.
Secondly, those kids only hurt themselves. When the two hours of wonderment ended with the oncoming rain they were forced to admit that they had behaved improperly as humans and as such, ruined their only memory of happily experiencing the sun. Much like the people that were in support of slavery, segregation, apartheid, banning gay marriage, English only laws, extermination of Jews, banning a woman’s right to vote or any supremacy of one group over another, these children ultimately regretted what they did and saw it for what it was, simple cruelty; a sin of the heart.
In taking from Margot, they stole from themselves.
So to read the blogger’s interpretation of Mr. Bradbury’s brilliant short story, for it is as brilliant in 2013 as it was when it was published in 1954, as a call for continued triumphalism and one sided evangelizing is heart breaking.
This is how I understood the blogger’s last sentences:
I wonder. How many people in my life do I lock away from me, so I can bask in the warmth and glow of my own making?
How long will I continue to keep the right to individuality from those who desperately need its freedom, who are weary of being kept a prisoner away from living what they know is truth, while the rest of us go about imposing our own ideas upon them, freely and without restriction?
I’m still hoping I read it wrong.
Bradbury’s story has haunted me for years and years. I was heartbroken over the mean bullies that kept that little girl away from the light. This story became a marker in my life and I have always been a champion of the underdog as a result. I really don’t want to judge anyone for their beliefs, thoughts, needs, or actions as long as laws are followed and their behavior doesn’t hurt anyone or take away from others.
First, do no harm.
Second, help when and where you can.
Third, God is in us, how we show it depends on our traditions and culture.
Lastly, never, NEVER think that your way is the only way. The minute you do, you lock away everyone else and corrupt your own Godly connection.
It is amazing how good literature impacts us.
Thanks for being my friends.