“All Summer in a Day” imagines a world in which humans have left Earth for Venus, an inhospitable planet where they must live completely indoors and can only dream about the pleasures of being outside. This estrangement from nature changes humanity, both physically and emotionally, by draining people of color, vitality, and even empathy. In this way, Bradbury shows how central nature—and particularly the sun —is to humankind.
The strongest example of this is the story’s protagonist, Margot, a little girl who moved to Venus from Earth several years before and is therefore alone among her classmates in remembering the sun. Bradbury’s descriptions of Margot reveal that her life on Venus has left her much diminished from her days on Earth. For example, Bradbury’s physical description of Margot suggests that Venus has weakened her body—Margot is “frail” and her color has drained away to the extent that she looks like “an old photograph dusted from an album, whitened away, and if she spoke at all her voice would be a ghost.” She also seems so demoralized by her surroundings that she has become uninterested in the typical pleasures of children. “If they tagged her and ran,” Bradbury writes, “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.” Therefore, Bradbury depicts Margot as a child so heartbroken and diminished by the loss of nature that she has become nearly inhuman.
While Margot reels from the loss of nature, her classmates have never even known the sun. Their upbringing on Venus, in an environment hostile to human life, seems to have shaped them to be meaner than their counterparts on Earth. The constant rains and lightning are dangerous and depressing, and the lush vegetation—which Bradbury describes as a “nest of octopi, clustering up great arms of fleshlike weed”—is the color of “rubber and ash,” making even the natural elements of Venus seem dead and hazardous. Because of this, and because the sun comes out only once every seven years, humans must live in underground tunnels to survive. Just like this environment, Margot’s classmates behave hostilely towards her. They taunt her, mock her, and they ultimately leave her locked in a closet during the only two hours of sunlight they will see for seven years—an act that is particularly cruel since Margot longs so fervently for the sun. In this way, Bradbury strongly ties the children’s behavior to their environment. After the sunlight has passed, the children remember Margot and seem, for the first time, remorseful for how they treated her. Seeing the sun has either imbued them with a warmth and empathy they had lacked beforehand, or their experience of seeing and losing sunlight has made them finally sympathetic to her grief.
The power that nature and sunlight have over all of the children suggests that humanity is, at least in part, defined by its relationship to nature. Without the sun, human beings in this story do not seem whole—they lack physical vitality and emotional warmth. Perhaps in recognition of the sun’s centrality to human life, the people in the story practically worship it, making the sun an object of fascination and longing. This dystopian fetishization of nature by people who are acutely affected by its absence can be read as a parable of technological progress and urbanization. Published in 1954, the story appeared in the midst of the postwar boom of suburban development and aerospace technology. In light of this, Bradbury seems to suggest that human beings are better off living in landscapes that keep them alongside the natural world, and that technologies that estrange people from nature—like the rocket that transported earthlings to Venus—can diminish humanity rather than further its progress. By depicting both characters who long for the nature of Earth and characters who suffer from never having known it, Bradbury suggests that contact with nature and the sun are centrally important to human health and wellbeing. Without this contact, humans seem to lose an important piece of themselves.
The Power of Nature ThemeTracker
The Power of Nature 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.
Margot stood alone. She was a very frail girl who looked as if she had been lost in the rain for years and the rain had washed out the blue from her eyes and the red from her mouth and the yellow from her hair. She was an old photograph dusted from an album, whitened away, and if she spoke at all her voice would be a ghost.
"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?"
They stopped running and stood in the great jungle that covered Venus, that grew and never stopped growing, tumultuously, even as you watched it. It was a nest of octopi, clustering up great arms of fleshlike weed, wavering, flowering in this brief spring. It was the color of rubber and ash, this jungle, from the many years without sun. It was the color of stones and white cheeses and ink, and it was the color of the moon.
"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."