Friday, June 2, 2017

All Summer in a Day

The seventh grade is currently reading dystopian literature, and yesterday morning I read Ray Bradbury's short story "All Summer in a Day" for the first time.

The story takes place on Venus, where it rains constantly. The sun only appears for two hours every seven years, so the children in the story have no memories of it. One student, Margot, moved to Venus from Earth, so she is the only one who does know what sunshine is like. She describes it as "a penny" and "a fire in the stove", and the other children tease her and ostracize her because they believe her to be lying about her memories.

On the day the sun is scheduled to appear, the children lock her in a closet. They go outside with their teacher and enjoy two hours of "summer" and forget about their classmate. When the rain returns, and the retreat back inside, they remember what they did to Margot. Flushed with shame, they let her out of the closet.

Obviously, this story is sad because Margot, the one who cherished the sun, misses out on the opportunity to enjoy it. We know that she will have to wait at least another seven years for it to come again. But I kept thinking about the teacher- did she notice that one of her students was missing? Was she concerned? Did she know about how the other children treated Margot? And how is she going to deal with the realization that this girl was denied the right enjoyed by all the other children under watch? She was denied her moment in the sun, not just the idiom, but the actual experience.

As I read the story, all I could think about is how it could be a metaphor for depression. Margot getting locked away in the closet could represent those who struggle with depression, and how they do not get to enjoy "sunshine" like other people. Or, Margot could be a personification of depression, and the classmates are other aspects of a person; the "bad stuff" gets locked away so that we can go out and "play" (interact) with others every once in a while, but it doesn't really go away. When we come back from playing, we have to go unlock the closet and realize that she's still there waiting for us.

There are different ways to assign roles in this interpretation, but one role we might not immediately consider is the teacher's. Have I been that role before? Have I ever stood by, enjoying the sunshine, while someone else is locked away? Not because I'm cruel, but just because I'm oblivious?

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