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June 13, 2006

The following essay was written for a provincial exam practice based on the June 2005 test. It is rough and contains errors based on the time limit of one hour to read, answer eight multiple choice questions and write a 300-word essay response!

Topic:

In multi-paragraph essay form and with reference to "Dandelion Wine" (by Ray Bradbury), discuss contrast in this story.

 

A Study in Contrast

The joy of getting a new pair of shoes—who can ever forget? Bradbury’s story brings us back that joy, using appropriate contrasts throughout his tale.

From the very beginning, we get that special sense of pleasure that youth takes in new experiences. Douglas, on seeing tennis shoes in a store window, finds his “ankles . . . seized” and soon “walked backward.” Contrast this to his family who “walked quietly” past the same “bright store window.”

Once the shoes capture Douglas’ attention, the contrasts continue. His father, who, as is often the case, wants to know “why you need a new pair of sneakers” and some rationale to justify the purchase. At this point, we jump to a poetic description of sneakers with “the thin hard sinews of a buck deer” that hide inside them.

To Douglas, new sneakers are summer itself and replacing them is “to get winter off your feet.” He stresses the contrast between his good fortune at being a boy who lives through winter and the poor “boys who lived in California.” For him, the shoes are “magic” and “better than barefoot.”

By far the most satisfying contrast, however, in the story is between Douglas and the proprietor of the shoe store, Mr. Sanderson. Mr. Sanderson is a typical older gentleman, long past the age of wearing sneakers. Douglas asks him when he’d last worn a pair of sneakers, in quite the contrast to a usual store owner/customer transaction.

At his age, Mr. Sanderson, has been “wearing shoes” and no doubt sensible ones at that. Douglas’s invitation to try some on so that he can “rave about them” is met cooly at first by the older gentleman. But with Douglas’s infectious insistence, after putting on a pair of sneakers, soon “Emotions hurried over [Mr. Sanderson’s] face as if many colored lights had been switched on and off.” Evidently, this is quite a contrast from what he’d expected when trying on a new pair of sneakers!

Through the effective use of contrasts, Ray Bradbury captures some of the magic of childhood and, at the same time, reminds us that we older folks might also experience a bit of that same magic if we just stopped and let ourselves once in a while!

--379 words (more than required) first draft for a Provincial Exam question on Prose; June 2005 test session by Brad Hyde.