As its title suggests, “All Summer in a Day” is about a single day of great importance, one that the inhabitants of Venus have anticipated eagerly for seven years. While great anticipation often leads to dashed expectations, Bradbury’s story shows that there is an even worse fate than unmet expectation: the brief moment of sunlight on Venus brings more joy than the children could ever have imagined, which leaves them with a demoralizing longing for the future, an anticipation that prevents them from enjoying their lives.
At the beginning of the story, anticipation of the sun’s arrival puts the children in a heightened, anxious state that ultimately breaks into hostility. Leading up to the sun’s appearance, they worry that something will go wrong—the sun won’t appear, or their teacher will let them outside too late. These mixed emotions leave the children tense and volatile, which ultimately spills over into violence. At most times, the children avoid Margot, but on this day, William tries to start a fight with her for staring out the window. He and the other children are so agitated with their own anticipation that they inflict on Margot the very outcome that they themselves most fear: they prevent her from seeing the sun. Margot is distraught. She attempts to escape by “protesting, and then pleading, and then crying,” and then throwing herself against the closet door. For Margot, this day marked the return of the thing she most loved and missed, and her dashed anticipation feels catastrophic.
For the children who do see the sun, it doesn’t disappoint. Despite their high expectations, they experience more joy than they thought possible. However, this means that, when the sun finally vanishes, the children are devastated. As a result, the close of the brief summer is a tragedy. When one student catches the first returning raindrop in her palm, she begins to cry. As the rains roll in, the children lose their cheer immediately, “their smiles vanishing away” as they return to the underground classroom. Their anticipation for the summer and the brief joy it brought has been suddenly replaced by an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss. After such a long wait, it’s difficult to accept that their period of great happiness is already over. Even worse, now that the children realize what they’re missing, their anticipation of the next summer is more bitter and fervent than before.
In the end, the day seems to have brought far more sadness than joy, as instead of imagining the sun, they now miss something they have personally experienced. For the first time, the children truly understand Margot’s longing for the sun and seem to become aware of the magnitude of what they have done to her. After they return inside, they are frozen with this realization, and feel too guilty to meet one another’s eyes. Like Margot, they are now “solemn and pale.” In the wake of the wonderful afternoon, the reality of the seven years they will have to wait to experience it again is difficult to bear. When the children return inside, they are more aware of the misery of their conditions: they “heard the gigantic sound of rain falling in tons and avalanches, everywhere and forever.” This newfound sense of loss, impatience, and guilt will forever be bound up with the children’s anticipation, as well as with their experience of their everyday reality. For Bradbury, then, having anticipation rewarded with brief, unmitigated pleasure is a greater curse than never knowing such pleasure at all.
Anticipation and Disappointment ThemeTracker
Anticipation and Disappointment Quotes in All Summer in a Day
The children pressed to each other like so many roses, so many weeds, intermixed, peering out for a look at the hidden sun.
Then, for the first time, she turned and looked at him. And what she was waiting for was in her eyes. "Well, don’t wait around here!" cried the boy savagely. "You won’t see nothing!" Her lips moved.
"You’ve only two hours, you know. You wouldn’t want to get caught out!" But they were running and turning their faces up to the sky and feeling the sun on their cheeks like a warm iron; they were taking off their jackets and letting the sun burn their arms. "Oh, it’s better than the sun lamps, isn’t it?"
In the midst of their running one of the girls wailed. Everyone stopped. The girl, standing in the open, held out her hand. "Oh, look, look," she said, trembling. They came slowly to look at her opened palm. In the center of it, cupped and huge, was a single raindrop. She began to cry, looking at it.
Then they closed the door and heard the gigantic sound of the rain falling in tons and avalanches, everywhere and forever. "Will it be seven more years?" "Yes. Seven."