The Reversal Relationship
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...
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Bradbury's Use of Literary Devices
Writing a well-crafted short story is not easy. To be a good short story writer, the writer must know how to use many literary devices. Because the finished piece will not be very long, each word must be carefully chosen to deliver the maximum impact. Edgar Allen Poe, master of the short story, believed that a good short story must provide a “single effect.” In other words, the action of a short story should be concentrated to deliver one strong emotional jolt, especially if that story is dealing with horror, suspense, or terror. Ray Bradbury openly acknowledges that he as a young writer was influenced by Poe, and he always strives to create the single, concentrated effect suggested by Poe. Bradbury masterfully uses similes, metaphors, dialogue, point of view, tone, and many other literary devices to draw the reader in and to heighten the emotional experience. In his story “The Veldt,” for instance, there are many fine examples of how Bradbury uses these literary devices to create a story that is engaging, clever, and shocking.
Bradbury always has a very strong start to his stories, and this is true of “The Veldt” as well. The story opens with the following bit of dialogue:
George, I wish you’d look at the nursery.
What’s wrong with it?
I don’t know.
I just want you to look at it, is all, or call a
psychologist in to look at it.
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Science Fiction Theatre
To Ray Bradbury a toaster is an idea encrusted in chrome. A small idea, perhaps—one involving the relationship of heat to bread—but nevertheless an idea. More complex machines such as automobiles, TV sets, computers and missiles conceal ideas of a more complex sort. We are surrounded by these machine-ideas, says Bradbury, and we scarcely give them a thought. Yet they influence our lives more directly than Plato’s forms or Aristotle’s universals ever did.
Bradbury is a man who is seriously concerned with the ideas that machines have woven around us. One of the most prolific and widely read science fiction writers, he has written more than 300 short stories and several novels. Much of the bulk of his fiction has been concerned with a single theme—the loss of human values to the machine. Now Bradbury has brought his message to a new medium, the theatre, and, typically, he has mustered all the resources of imagination, talent and ingenuity available to make the stage speak for him with the effectiveness of the printed page.
“The World of Ray Bradbury,” an evening of three one-act plays, opened in Los Angeles to generally favorable reviews. The appearance of a theatrical company dedicated to producing his own work represents more than dabbling in a new literary form for Bradbury. It is a full commitment to put time, energy and money into the theatre. He has spent $20,000 out of his own pocket, gathered a professional group of actors...
(The entire section is 1786 words.)