All Summer in a Day

“All Summer in a Day” takes place on the planet Venus, a generation after the first colonists from Earth arrived there. Venus has a peculiar climate: every seven years, the sun comes out for just two hours. The rest of the time, it rains—all day, every day. The planet is covered with thick jungles and unruly weeds, perpetually caught in a cycle of growth and destruction. Humans live underground in a network of tunnels, eagerly awaiting the very brief summer.

When the story opens, a group of nine-year-old children are gathered excitedly by the window of their underground classroom. After seven long years, today is the day that scientists predict the sun will make its brief appearance; indeed, the rain seems to be slowing. One child, Margot, stands apart. Unlike most of the children, Margot lived on Earth until five years ago, so while they all speculate about what the sun is like, Margot can actually remember quite well. Margot has not taken well to her new home on Venus: she is frail, quiet, and pale, as if “the rain had washed out the blue from her eyes and the red from her mouth and the yellow from her hair.” Lately, she has begun to panic at the touch of water.

As the two-hour summer approaches, the schoolchildren read and write short stories about the sun. Margot finds herself the object of teasing when William, a boy in her class, tries to antagonize her by claiming she didn’t write the poem she shared with the class. This is typical torment for Margot: the other children tend to tease her or avoid her, because they envy her childhood on Earth and the fact that her parents may even spend thousands of dollars to move her back there. To some extent, Margot seems to have brought this isolation upon herself, because she refuses to participate in games or songs unless they relate to the sun. For Margot, life on Venus is all but unbearable and the sun is all-important, and she makes no secret of these feelings.

On the day the sun is set to appear, these tensions are close to a boiling point. While their teacher is briefly out of the room, William pushes and taunts Margot, but she doesn’t respond, continuing to stare out the classroom window. Angered, William tells Margot that the sun won’t come out after all. She’s unsure whether to believe him, but clearly alarmed. Soon, the other children join William in taunting Margot about the sun, the thing she most cares about. William leads the other children in grabbing Margot and pushing her into a closet. She struggles and cries, but they lock the door, smile at one another, and return to the classroom. They seem to forget about the incident immediately.

Just as the children return to the classroom, the rain slows even more and, finally, stops. They crowd eagerly by the classroom door. In the sudden roaring silence and stillness, the sun comes out, flooding the sky and jungle with radiant light. The jungle is revealed as a tumultuous tangle of “flesh-like weed,” resembling a “nest of octopi” bleached a sickly ash grey by years of relative darkness.

The children rush outside and peel off their jackets, reveling in the warmth of the sun. It is far better than they even imagined it would be. They run, laugh, and yell, staring at the sun and trying to savor every joyful moment. But all too soon, a girl begins to wail—she has caught a single raindrop in her palm. Immediately sobered, the children walk and then run back to the underground classroom as the sky darkens and the torrential rain recommences. It seems somehow louder and more painful than before, and the seven year distance between the present and the next glimpse of sunshine seems incomprehensibly long.

Just as these somber feelings overtake the children, they suddenly remember Margot, still locked in the closet. They glance at each other, guilty and chastened. Slowly, against the backdrop of the terrible rain, they walk to the now-silent closet. They let Margot out.