“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury is a science fiction short story with the main theme being the consequences of technological advancement. This theme is carried throughout the whole story and is told by third person point of view. George and Lydia Hadley are parents of Peter and Wendy and live in an automated or technologically driven house that does all the work for them; cooks food for them, ties their shoes, gives them a bath, cleans the house, and much more. While it might seem nice that the house does everything for them, George and Lydia realize that there is something wrong with the way they are living as well as one of the rooms in the house, the nursery, where the kids hang out the most. This caused them to call a psychologist to the house to check out the nursery and eventually make a decision, which suggests that they shut down everything in the house, lock up the nursery and start fresh with living a more self-sufficient life. Towards the end, the mood takes a darker turn, realizing too late that the kids are very intelligent and creative; they lure the parents into the nursery, which leaves readers questioning what really happened to them. By writing this story, Ray Bradbury was trying to warn people of future technology and what consequences can occur when its over relied on.
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Ray Bradbury is known for writing many short science fiction stories that have to do with how advancement in technology can cause bad consequences when people over rely on it including, “The Martian Chronicles”, “The Murderer” and of course “The Veldt” and many more. In “When I was in Kneepants: Ray Bradbury” by Damon Knight, mentions how Ray Bradbury’s goal in “The Veldt” and many of his other stories was, “Bradbury's subject is childhood and the buried child-in-man; his aim is to narrow the focus, not to widen it; to shrink all the big frightening things to the compass of the familiar: a spaceship to a tin can; a Fourth of July rocket to a brass kettle; a lion to a Teddy bear” (110). Ray Bradbury didn’t write stories that had anything to do with fantasy and expand your imagination on unreal things but to simply narrow those imaginations down and focus specifically on reality, how people are doing things or relying too much on things that are hurting their future. He wants people to come to the same conclusion like he did, to try and prevent bad consequences from happening in the future, “big frightening things” that people are unfamiliar with and don’t know how to deal with, to something they are familiar with and that is safe. He wants people to try and continue living self-sufficient lives and not to rely too much on certain things that could cause danger for the future.
“The Veldt” starts off with a conversation between George and Lydia Hadley who live in a thirty thousand dollar house called a “Happylife Home”. This house is an automated/technologically driven house that satisfies all their needs, cooks for them, gives them baths, dresses them etc. so both the parents and kids don’t have to do any work on their own. It starts off by Lydia telling George to take a look at the “nursery” (the most expensive room in the house), a room that has glass walls all around and is able to project any landscape or environment that anyone is thinking about, also a room where their kids hang out the most. She wanted George to take a look at it, as well as call a psychologist to examine the room. The first few paragraphs of the story already show us that the setting is located in a technological future (in a family’s advanced home). The brand “Happylife Home” can be seen as the protection or promotion that consumers might want, almost like a paradise. But bringing a psychologist to check on the room shows that maybe this type of “paradise” is not as amazing as it seems. The narrator also mentions how the nursery is the most expensive room in the house, which can lead us to think how George and Lydia go above and beyond to spoil their kids.
After a small introduction about the house, the nursery and the family, the story continues with George and Lydia entering the nursery, which transforms into the African Veldt. They are able to feel the heat of the sun, smell of the grass, water and even the animals, along with sounds of vultures and lions. Lydia realizes that there are lions in the distance eating something, something that they aren’t able to see along with sounds of screaming. While George doesn’t hear anything this makes Lydia feel nervous. This shows us that what we think a nursery should look like gets turned into a scary veldt that this nursery is. The reality of this veldt seems “too real” for a manufactured reality and it can seem more of an arousing/inspiring interest then the real reality. Also the fact the kids this young imagined the African veldt, which is a scene with animal violence, death, a nature scene instead of imagining something with cartoons or fantasy is interesting. It shows how the technology is consuming their lives, they know things that even the parents aren’t familiar with for such a young age, things that kids their age shouldn’t be thinking about or doing and are able to sort of manipulate the technology. The story continues with George admiring the nursery saying that the technology is “genius” and that is it a “miracle of efficiency” meaning this room is like the greatest point in human power and technology. As the lions come a few feet and start running towards them making George and Lydia run out the room, and shut the door. This makes Lydia cry of fear and George laughing reminding her that this reality isn’t real. This shows the nursery can sometimes feel too real and again how advancing technology is over relied on and can cause changes in behavior or fear from it taking over/being too real.
As the story progresses eventually Lydia tells George to make sure the kids stop reading about Africa and too lock up the nursery. George then tells her maybe she’s working too hard and that she should take a rest, but she explains that its actually because she has almost nothing to do. She suggests that they turn off the house completely and take a vacation. This goes on to show that their depression is caused by the fact that they aren’t doing anything. This house has taken over all of their tasks and so they don’t really feel useful. Lydia shows wanting to be able to cook and clean on her own, and even says that the technology doesn’t really create real happiness and it’s having a bad effect on their physical and psychological health. This home sort of takes their purpose; they want to feel part of normal society and in order to do that they need to work. George also mentions that maybe it is a good idea that the kids stay away from the nursery for a few days and that they have been spending too much time in Africa, where they are able to see death. On the other hand, he says its never too early for a kid to think about death, in fact sometimes they wish it upon others before they really understand what it is. This means that Wendy and Peter might be too addicted to he technology, and gives them too much power without taking any responsibility. As much as he knows that they are kids and maybe don’t fully understand the consequences of death, he’s afraid that Wendy and Peter might lead to actual violence. And again we hear lions roaring and the screams, which lead George to think that his and Lydia’s concerns are true. This can also show that “the veldt” the kids chose instead of choosing what kids normally choose (fantasy), is a loss if innocence.
Moving towards the middle of the story, we know George has went back to the nursery once again, tries to change the nursery walls to Aladdin, and fails. He tells his wife that the nursery is broken, and come to a conclusion that its either since the kids have been thinking about Africa for so long, or Peter somehow set the nursery to stay on this mode. This means that George being incapable of changing the walls of the room suggests this situation is passing beyond his control.
The next few scenes in the story start to give more hints about what might happen at the end, what really is happening with the nursery and we get to see the affects of technology on the children’s behavior. When Peter and Wendy come back home from a carnival, George asks them about Africa, and they act like they don’t understand, confused, and insisted they never created such a place. After some time Wendy runs to the nursery and changes the walls to a magical forest where Rima was singing, and tells her parents that it’s not Africa. When the parents went to go see for themselves, George gets frustrated and suspicious and sends the kids to bed. George was walking around the room and found an old wallet of his covered in blood, and chewed up, which makes him leave the nursery and locks it up. The wallet is another sign or hint at what the kids are up to and a hint George might seem to partially understand. The kids also seem to be manipulating their parents and seem to have almost no emotions or feelings almost like robots.