In "The Veldt," George and Lydia Hadley are the parents of Wendy and Peter Hadley, and they live in a technologically driven house that will do everything for its inhabitants - transport you upstairs, brush your teeth, cook the food, and clean the house. The story begins when Lydia asks George if he's noticed anything wrong with the nursery, the most expensive and exciting room of the house. The glass walls have the ability to project the landscape and environment of any place that the mind of the visitor wishes. During this particular visit, George and Lydia are surrounded by the African countryside. In the distance, lions are licking the bones of their prey clean. The images are so startlingly lifelike that when the holographic lions begin to charge, George and Lydia run for the door to escape.
Outside of the nursery, Lydia comments that she heard screams coming from the room earlier in the day, but George tries to ease her worries. He wants to believe that the children are psychologically healthy, not that they are fixated on blood and violence. After all, one of the selling points of the room was that the children would be able to use the room as an outlet for their emotions, and the places that the room visited would provide information for the adults who were curious about the young minds. Lydia senses that something dark is brooding in her children's brain. As they sit down to dinner, which is all provided through the house's technology, George suggests shutting down the house and living in a simpler manner, something he has suggested before and used as a punishment for his children. Lydia is thrilled by the idea because she feels as if she has been replaced for the house. The house is the mother, wife, and homemaker that she once was, and she feels purposeless.
George visits the room again for further observation, and he attempts to change the scenery to Aladdin. Alas, nothing changes, and he begins to think that his children have maintained control over the environment, furthering his concern that his children have an unhealthy obsession with the veldt. When they arrived home from a carnival, he decided to ask them about the persistence of the savannah, but they tried to deny it. Wendy goes into the room to inspect it, and when she returns she reports that it is no longer Africa, but rather woodland. George and Lydia are highly skeptical, and they believe that Wendy entered the room and changed it after they returned from the fair. One of the clues that make George believe the room was altered was his wallet on the floor of the nursery, smelling of hot grass and showing teeth marks.
As George and Lydia go to bed, they decide to call David McClean and have him come over to inspect the nursery. The sounds of screams travel from downstairs - Wendy and Peter have left their bedrooms and gone back to the nursery. Lydia comments, "Those screams - they sound familiar." At the end of the story, they will find out why they sound so familiar. The next morning, Peter questions his father about the future of the nursery. "You aren't going to lock up the nursery for good, are you?" asked Peter. George explains that they were thinking of shutting the house down for a while and living in a more traditional manner, and Peter responds poorly. Peter vaguely threatens his father and stomps off.
When David McClean inspects the room, he admits that it gives him a bad feeling. George presses him for more concrete facts, but David can only offer him his intuition. He says to George, "This doesn't feel good, I tell you. Trust my hunches and my instincts. I have a nose for something bad. This is very bad. My advice to you is to have the whole damn room torn down and your children brought to me every day during the next year for treatment." Why, exactly, are things so dire? The children are furious with their parents and the idea of the nursery being taken away. McClean tells George that the house has replaced him and his wife, and now the house is far more important than their biological parents. McClean believes that there is "real hatred" in the scenes of the nursery, and George decides to turn it off instantly. As they leave, McClean picks something up on the ground - Lydia's scarf. It's bloody.
George told his children that the nursery would be turned off, as well as the rest of the house. They began screaming and throwing a hysterical fit. They begged for more time in the nursery, and Lydia suggested that turning it off so suddenly was not a good idea. At first George resisted the idea of turning it back on, but eventually he relented and allowed the children a little bit more time. George and Lydia went upstairs to get ready for the vacation while the children played in the nursery one final time.
From their bedroom, George and Lydia’s children call them to quickly come downstairs. They ran downstairs but didn't see their children anywhere. When they couldn't find them, they looked for them in the nursery. The savannah and the lions had returned to the nursery, and the door slammed behind them. They called for Wendy and Peter, but they had locked the door from the outside. They beat against the door but no one opened them, and the lions began to surround them and move closer. Mr. and Mrs. Hadley screamed, and suddenly they realized why the screams sounded so familiar. David McClean arrived shortly after to greet everyone, but he did not see George and Lydia. The children sat and ate lunch in the nursery, looking out on the water hole and the lions feasting in the distance. "Where are your father and mother?" asked David, and Wendy simply responded, "Oh, they'll be here directly." As they watch the vultures swoop down, Wendy asks, "A cup of tea?" and the story ends.
In this dark and troubling story, Bradbury writes a precautionary tale of the advance of technology and the importance of maintaining communication during these technological advances. In the Hadley's "Happy-life Home," the house fulfills all of their needs and desires. While at first this was a major advantage to the Hadley's and a primary reason for the desirability of the home, it has now become a point of stress rather than happiness. Both parents struggle to find fulfillment in their everyday life because the house has replaced their traditional roles as mother and father. At different points in the story, both parents contemplate going back to a "normal" house even though it would mean extra work and tasks for them everyday.
Bradbury juxtaposes the advance of technology with the decline in interpersonal communication. The Hadley children, Wendy and Peter, are both manipulative and stubborn. They fail to have any positive communications with their parents during the story. Many of their interactions end in a thinly veiled threat or a strategically placed crying session in order to secure what they want. While this may not be entirely uncommon behavior of children, the parents are unable to respond appropriately to their children. Stripped of their parenting duties, they have forgotten how to communicate with their children. In every interaction between parents and children, the children receive what they want. These negative interactions emphasize the importance of inter-family communications.
George and Lydia attribute their lack of an ability to communicate with their children to the house's automation, but this brings to light the idea that parenting is more than simply providing your child with everything he or she would like. The Hadley's believed that this would solve their problems, but it has only caused more problems. The house that provides everything has rendered them unnecessary and inconvenient. Somehow, the Hadley's must find a way to reassert themselves in their children's eyes and provide them with a form of support that is not possible to receive from the house.
As George and Lydia struggle to find their identity as parents, they are simultaneously struggling with their personal identities. Lydia confesses to George that she would much rather turn the house "off" and go back to giving the children baths, cooking dinner, and doing the laundry. Lydia's concern for finding a purpose highlights a broader human concern to find importance in your daily tasks and the need to think that you are making progress and contributing to society. This basic need does not cease with the advent of automation and technology, according to Bradbury.
Finally, the science of psychology plays a major role in the story. It is revealed that the original purpose of the nursery was to study the minds of children, for what they left on the wall would provide a glimpse into the inner workings of their minds. Even though George and Lydia have hunches that something is wrong with the never changing African veldt, it is not until psychologist David McClean arrives that they know for sure that something is seriously wrong. He insists that the house be shut down immediately and the children start psychological treatment as soon as possible. Bradbury positions psychology as a possible treatment for the children's dire state.
Ray Bradbury has a point to make in his short story “The Veldt.” It is a rather simple and obvious point—Bradbury does not like machines. But the more interesting part of this story is not his dislike of a mechanical world but rather it is Bradbury’s explanation of why he does not look upon a world run by machines as some kind of utopia in which human beings are free to pursue things other than the mundane chores of every day living. Quite contrary to the notion of a utopia, in Bradbury’s view, machines turn the world upside down, ruining human relationships and destroying the minds of children. Instead of leaving time for people to ponder the higher thoughts of spirituality and philosophy, a world run by machines leaves people open to boredom and thoughts riddled with fear, anger, and vengeance. And it is these results that make Bradbury very unhappy.
Bradbury’s husband and wife protagonists, George and Lydia Hadley, live in what Bradbury calls a Happylife Home, a place any person in their right mind would drool over, or at least that is what the Hadleys thought when they plunked down the cash to convert their normal habitat into one they thought would solve all their problems. The house was energy efficient, turning lights off and on when people entered or left a room. The house was soothing, rocking them and their children to sleep at night. The house was nurturing, fixing their meals, dressing them, and keeping their environment as clean as if they had a twenty-four-hour maid. Who could ask for more from a house?
Well, as some people believe, there is no such thing as utopia. And this concept partially forms the foundation of Bradbury’s story. In the least, Bradbury contends that an existence heavily dependent on machines will cause as much strife as it eases. It might be fun to imagine fantastic realities but attempting to put them into play in a material world causes unforeseen hardships or maybe even fatal catastrophes. Something always seems to go wrong.
In the case of Bradbury’s creation, a lot of things go wrong, and the Hadleys’ world is turned on its head. Something is wrong, they suspect, but they do not quite know what it is. What they do know is the heart of this unnamed flaw is located somewhere in the nursery.
The Hadleys are well intended parents who do not let money stand in the way of their children’s happiness. They have installed something that Bradbury has imagined well before its time, a personal virtual reality room, which in turn would provide them with well-balanced, happy little minds. But the Hadley children’s minds, as it turns out, are only happy at their parents’ expense, and the debt involves a lot more than their parents’ money. It takes a while for the Hadleys to realize that something is amiss in the nursery. When George steps into the room one day he suddenly is overwhelmed by the heat. And the lions! They seem so real. Is it possible that the virtual reality machine has converted itself, has moved up a notch closer to being less virtual and more real? And what has happened to George, once ruler and lord of his household? He seems incapable of doing anything to change the course of the foreshadowed disaster that looms in the nursery. Even though he tries to avert a catastrophe and recapture the power that once was his, his attempts come up short. He locks the room and threatens to shut the machine off, but the children overthrow his rule. George is a king dethroned in his own castle.
The children, the narrator informs the reader, have taken over the parental role, whether or not George and Lydia want to face this. They throw tantrums when George locks them out of the nursery. And George, the misguided parent that he is, wants his children to be happy. After all, this is the reason he bought the Happylife Home in the first place. So the tantrums work. George does not want to see his children cry. Tantrums make no one happy. George backs down yet another degree as the children mastermind a plot to ensure total authority over their parents.
Next, in steps fear. Lydia is afraid of the nursery. Those virtual reality lions look like they are ready to pounce on George and Lydia. But then Lydia thinks this thought out again. Maybe she is just growing paranoid. After all, she has so much time to think now that she has less to do around the house. As a matter of fact, it is not that she has...
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