I Sing the Body Electric and The Veldt: What Do They Have in Common?

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The two short stories, ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ and ‘The Veldt’ can be thought of as similar since they both apply to the same general topic: Technology- good? Or bad? However, since they both show opposing sides of the subject, they are actually very different.

Let’s start with their similarities. The main characters in these stories are part of two families: Wendy, Peter, George, Lydia, and the house make up the Hadleys; and Tom, Agatha, Tim, their father and the electric grandmother make up the other family. The main caregiver in both seems to be technology, but that seems to be the only similarities between them. The setting in both stories is futuristic, although the exact time is not specified.

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Both Stories have this eerie feeling about them, as if they were both threatening to expose the opposite side of their place on the subject of technology. In ‘I sing the body electric’ the feeling of the story was mostly bright and happy. The electric grandmother, who was the main technology part of the story, didn’t seem harmful at all, but something didn’t seem quite right with her. Like in the story, when she herself, after being hit by a car says:

“…resilient creature I am, unbreakable thing I am, here I am…”

This was almost frightening, because it’s so very unnatural! Death is all part of being human, but then one has to remember how very inhuman she is, which is made clear with all the strange abilities he seems to have. Switching faces to please each person? Memorizing and recording what they say? These were all very disturbing aspects of the electric grandmother.

Another point they have in common, is the rather shocking realization that technology may render our existence unnecessary. In ‘the veldt,’ everything was done for the family through technology, as you can see in the following quote:

“…this house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them…”

In the end, the people did realize that the house was bad, but just the fact that such a thing was available is troubling.

Even with these similarities, the stories are still very different. For instance, in the story ‘the veldt,’ the characters Wendy and Peter Hadley wanted their parents to die, while Agatha, Timothy and Tom were short one, and longed for a mother figure. The electric grandmother and house are also very different in comparison. The house fronted with a kind and gentle side, but had an evil undercoating. The grandmother, however always stayed kind and gentle towards the other characters. The plots were different as well. In one, a family orders an electric grandmother to fill the role of their dead mother, and in the other, a family lived in a highly technologically advanced house that did everything for them and was perfect until things went awry… The themes of both were also very different. In ‘I sing the body electric,’ the theme was on death and moving past grief, but in ‘the veldt’ it was focussed on proving the family had too much of a good thing:

“That sounds dreadful! Would I have to tie my own shoes instead of letting the shoe tier do it?....It would be horrid.”

In the end, the two stories “I sing the body electric” and “the veldt” actually seem to be more balanced than anything. Even if there were more details of similarity than difference or vice versa it’s the importance of them that counts. I couldn’t choose one or the other of them, because an underlying theme I just can’t seem to grasp is similar between them, and yet the overall stories are so very different. In closing, I suggest you pick a side for yourself because I jut can’t seem to do so myself.

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