“All Summer in a Day” depicts a world in which the sun, though absent, has tremendous power over people’s lives. Characters are obsessed with their memories of the sun; Margot is sustained by her detailed memories, while her classmates—whose memories of the sun are either distant and brief or altogether nonexistent—are anxious and insecure that they can’t remember it better. Through his depiction of a society obsessed with memory and absence, Bradbury demonstrates that nostalgia leads to social unrest and personal dissatisfaction.
Unchecked nostalgia is a social sickness that prevents people from appreciating the present. This is clear on Venus. Since the sun appears only once every seven years, inhabitants spend much of their time recalling these brief moments of summer. Most children are too young to remember the last appearance of the sun, so they dream about it and long to experience it firsthand. The sun has such mythological and emotional importance in their society that the children’s lack of coherent memories of the sun (or lack of firsthand experience with it) makes them feel insecure and anxious, disconnected from an important source of cultural meaning. In addition, since seeing the sun is such an important cultural experience, memories of the sun are a source of conflict on Venus. Margot “stands apart” from the other children because she knows that her memories of the sun are more recent, detailed, and reliable than theirs. The other children are frustrated by this imbalance, which makes Margot vulnerable to bullying. In these ways, Bradbury shows that living in a place in which sunlight is simultaneously so scarce and so valued makes both the ability and inability to remember the sun socially fraught.
In addition to the social ramifications of remembering the sun, these memories have profound personal effects. Characters who focus too much on their memories have a hard time enjoying the present, which shows the detrimental effects of a society so consumed with nostalgia. Margot is the most extreme example of this phenomenon, as she experiences nostalgia so strong that the present is intolerable to her. Instead of joining the other children in games of tag or songs about life on Venus, Margot only participates in activities relating to the sun. She refuses to experience even the more pleasant parts of life on Venus, instead focusing solely on her memories of life on Earth. This fixation isolates her from her peers and even affects her health: she is pale, thin, and occasionally overwhelmed by the constant rain on Venus. Her parents consider moving her back to Earth to spare her from her anguish. And, after the other children have experienced the sun, they, too, feel dissatisfied with the normal state of things on Venus. The sound of the rain has become “gigantic,” and already they cannot wait for the return of the sun. It seems as if their memories of this day will make them more like Margot—their delight in the sun will eclipse their enjoyment of everyday life.
When considering the role of nostalgia in the story, it’s important to also consider that, for those living on Venus, the sun is a relic of an earlier time before humans colonized Venus. In this way, the planet’s obsession with the sun is not simply about the one hour of sunlight they receive every seven years, but rather about a deeper nostalgia for an era when all humans lived on Earth. Therefore, nostalgia for the sun has several levels of meaning—in the more immediate sense, nostalgia prevents characters from enjoying their everyday lives, and in a larger sense, nostalgia for the sun indicates a broad social pathology in which nobody is able to accept Venus as human reality. Instead of creating new values, myths, and expectations that fit their reality, humans on Venus remain nostalgically obsessed with the sunlight that defined a bygone era of human life on Earth.
Nostalgia and Discontent ThemeTracker
Nostalgia and Discontent Quotes in All Summer in a Day
Sometimes, at night, she heard them stir, in remembrance, and she knew they were dreaming and remembering gold or a yellow crayon or a coin large enough to buy the world with. She knew they thought they remembered a warmness, like a blushing in the face, in the body, in the arms and legs and trembling hands. But then they always awoke to the tatting drum, the endless shaking down of clear bead necklaces upon the roof, the walk, the gardens, the forests, and their dreams were gone.
They edged away from her, they would not look at her. She felt them go away. And this was because she would play no games with them in the echoing tunnels of the underground city. If they tagged her and ran, she stood blinking after them and did not follow. When the class sang songs about happiness and life and games her lips barely moved. Only when they sang about the sun and the summer did her lips move as she watched the drenched windows. And then, of course, the biggest crime of all was that she had come here only five years ago from Earth, and she remembered the sun and the way the sun was and the sky was when she was four in Ohio. And they, they had been on Venus all their lives, and they had been only two years old when last the sun came out and had long since forgotten the color and heat of it and the way it really was.
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."
"Margot." They stood as if someone had driven them, like so many stakes, into the floor. They looked at each other and then looked away. They glanced out at the world that was raining now and raining and raining steadily. They could not meet each other’s glances. Their faces were solemn and pale. They looked at their hands and feet, their faces down. "Margot."