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How is Bradbury's "The Veldt" an allusion to Barrie's "Peter Pan"?

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ccdesoto | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 1, 2011 at 9:19 AM via web

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How is Bradbury's "The Veldt" an allusion to Barrie's "Peter Pan"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted October 1, 2011 at 1:53 PM (Answer #1)

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A literary allusion within "The Veldt" to the story Peter Pan would allude to one or more of several things.

  • Peter Pan was a playful rascal who never wanted to grow up.
  • Peter Pan had a following of similar little boys who never wanted to grow up.
  • They lived in a land past the second star on the right where they had non-stop adventures and outwitted a wily villain:
  • Tinker Bell was Peter's friend and guide, with her magic pixie dust.
  • Wendy and her brothers were invited to Never Land.
  • She made the Lost Boys think of home and mother.
  • Invited to stay in Never Land, Wendy and her brothers opted to return home.
  • Peter Pan abandoned his parents for immortal childhood.
  • Wendy and her brothers temporarily abandoned their parents for a short-lived adventure.
  • The overall tone of this much beloved tale is lighthearted, fun and loving.
  • Peter Pan is not perceived as being unbalanced and spewing hatred and danger.

"The Veldt" shares some things in common, but they are antithetical opposites.

  • The overall tone of is menacing, dark, threatening and dangerous.
  • Wendy and Peter have gone past creating charming and over-indulged play scenes and become absorbed in creating angry, retributive scenes (for revenge and retribution).
  • Their parents aren't abandoned for immortal youth, but for vicious retaliation.
  • Their parents aren't abandoned: they are murdered.
  • Wendy and Peter don't desire playful immortal youth; they desire control and power manifest through childhood's tools or toys.
  • Peter and Wendy don't test their courage and resourcefulness against a wily villain; they antagonize, threaten, imprison and eliminate their well-meaning, though misguided parents.

As the overall picture of each is set out in detail, one sees how there is similarity, but one more readily sees how "The Veldt" is the antithetical dark side of the Peter Pan tale. Where Peter Pan is innocently young and adventuresome, Wendy and Peter Hadley are cruelly bent upon realizing their own dangerous objectives.

So, to defend the idea that "The Veldt" is an allusion to Peter Pan one must expand the definition of "allusion" to include a negative or antithetical representation of a well know work etc. The current standard definition of "allusion" applies to those parts that call to mind a direct correspondence to or correlation with the work etc alluded to.

An allusion: a brief reference to a person, event, place, or phrase. The writer assumes [readers] recognize the reference.

To illustrate, if I refer to "colored eggs in a basket," the allusion embodied therein calls forth a direct recollection of the Easter Bunny. A negative, antithetical image of an anti-Bunny who robs colored eggs form baskets is not evoked. The only way a negative or antithetical understanding might be evoked by an allusion would be if the negative aspect were explicitly invoked in the language. For instance, I might say "betrayed colored eggs in a basket"; this might call forth the antithetical image of a villainous Easter Bunny.

While it might be argued that Peter Pan inspired "The Veldt," it cannot correctly be said that "The Veldt" alludes to the tale because there is no direct correlation between the two--there is an antithetical correlation, a light side to dark side, positive to negative correlation. One might correctly say that "The Veldt" references Peter Pan, since reference may be of any sort: a positive reference, a negative one, an inverse reference, an antithetical one, or a contrasting one.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 1, 2011 at 12:11 PM (Answer #2)

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Peter and Wendy Hadley not only have names that match Peter Pan and Wendy, but like them they live in an illusionary world, the Veldt.  Moreover, the children have become obsessed with this virtual world and through the use of telepathy they have learned to program the Veldt to be the world that they feel that they desire, just as Peter Pan has created his Neverland.

Peter Pan is the stereotype of the boastful and careless boy. Likewise, Peter possesses a flippant attitude and an arrogance.  Certainly, Peter Hadley's personality parallels that of his namesake.  For, when George Hadley, Peter's father turns off all the mechanisms in the house, making it "like a mechanical cemetery," Peter cries,

"Don't let them do it!....Dont let Father kill everything....Oh, I hate you!....I wish you were dead!"

Later, of course, Peter and Wendy lock their parents into the Veldt. Then when another adult appears on the scene the following day, the psychologist David McClean, the children look up and smile, dissembling as they talk with him and plot their next immature, dastardly deed. 

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cheaty-macgee | Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 12, 2011 at 9:53 AM (Answer #3)

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I agree with your assertion that The Veldt is more correctly a reference than allusion to Barrie's Peter Pan.  This is no accident on Bradbury's part though, as he has been known to take his cues for twisting the future "perfect" by intermixing familiar aspects (especially character names: George, the overbearing father, Peter, youth seeking escape, and Wendy, ready and willing follower of Peter throughout) of other stories that he loved.

However, you too readily assume the worst, and may have fallen victim to one of the more common misinterpretations of Bradbury's work:

  • Their parents aren't abandoned: they are murdered.
  • Peter and Wendy don't test their courage and resourcefulness against a wily villain; they antagonize, threaten, imprison and eliminate their well-meaning, though misguided parents.

Many things are implied throughout the story - one might even begin to hope that the parents are eliminated in a final showdown with the children and their electronic nursemaid - but you will not find any satisfactory evidence to support your assertions within the text itself.  Bradbury may appear to be guiding the reader to a macabre finale; leaving the reader a trail of bloodied breadcrumbs to follow onto the killing floor of the nursery, and ultimately doing away with the misguided Hadley parents, but as with all that exists within the nursery, it is just an illusion.

"Walls, Lydia, remember; crystal walls, that's all they are. Oh, they look real, I must admit - Africa in your parlor - but it's all dimensional, superreactionary, supersensitive color film and mental tape film behind glass screens. It's all odorophonics and sonics..."

The master of science fiction twists us, turns us, and makes our minds dance to beat of his song, but if the parents are dead, then I am afraid that it is the reader who has killed them, and not the author.

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