Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Bradbury’s style is marked by lyricism and a profusion of metaphors. In “The Veldt,” these create an illusion of reality that brilliantly mirrors the deceptions that the characters in the story undergo. His description of the electronically produced African veldt contains such exact sensory details that it almost seems to be real, and indeed it is by the story’s end. Moreover, his description of the veldt also conveys an atmosphere of menace and hostility mirroring the psychological state of the Hadley family. In a similar fashion, Bradbury employs active verbs and personifications, describing the workings of the house’s mechanical devices in a way that suggests the living, human quality that the house is acquiring. When the devices are turned off, the house is a “mechanical cemetery,” reinforcing the idea that the house is a living thing.
Characteristically, Bradbury’s poetic style transports the reader out of the everyday world and into a fantasy world, often reminiscent of the unchecked imagination of childhood. The world of “The Veldt” is one in which childhood fantasies are made concrete. Hence, the story has an air of unreality about it as if it were simply a child’s daydream of a world in which children have the power and competence given to adults and adults have the helplessness of children.
This dreamlike quality is counterbalanced by the use of clichés and advertising language, which levels a satiric thrust...
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Nuclear Proliferation and the Cold War
World War II ended in 1945 when Germany and Japan surrendered to the Allied forces but, unfortunately, the war’s end set the stage for a major struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. These countries had very different goals for the post–World War II world. The United States supported free market capitalism while the Soviet Union believed in a communist society in which property and resources are owned by the nation as a whole, and production is controlled by the national government. Each country’s people thought that their own political and economic system was the best, and they were very suspicious of outsiders. The Soviet Union was particularly worried because the United States had used nuclear bombs during the war. The Soviets were also concerned about the United States being the only superpower to have nuclear capabilities, so they quickly began to develop their own nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union successfully tested its first atomic bomb in 1949, long before the United States expected the Soviets to have the capability of creating such a device. The United States also learned that the Soviets had stolen state secrets in order to accelerate their nuclear weapons program. A state of deep paranoia developed in both countries and this feeling of competition and threat began what came to be known as the cold war. The war gained this name because even though there was a struggle between the...
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Ambience is the emotional tone that pervades a work of fiction. In “The Veldt” Bradbury sets up a tense, oppressive ambience in the story through his use of description and dialogue. He conveys the hot, oppressiveness of the African veldt through specific descriptive passages such as “The hot straw smell of lion grass, the cool green smell of the hidden water hole, the great rusty smell of animals, the smell of dust like a red paprika in the hot air.” These descriptive passages create a sensory atmosphere and add to the sense of dread that pervades the story. The ambience lets the reader know that this is not a cheerful, happy comedy and that there is a good possibility that something terrible might happen.
Foreshadowing is a technique in which a writer drops hints about what is to happen later in a story. Bradbury uses this technique to hint at the fate of George and Lydia Hadley. While the two are lying in bed, they hear screams coming from the nursery, and Lydia comments, “Those screams—they sound familiar.” Later, the reader realizes that the screams sound familiar to Lydia because they are actually her screams and those of her husband.
Science fiction deals with the impact of imagined science upon society or individuals. Science fiction stories are often set in the future, but they do not have to be. One of the generally accepted rules of science...
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Compare and Contrast
Early 1950s: The minimum wage is $0.75 per hour.
Today: The minimum wage is $5.15 per hour.
Early 1950s: Pulp fiction magazines are widely read, but their popularity is on the decline due to competition from television, comic books, and the paperback novel.
Today: Very few pulp fiction magazines exist. Most books are now printed on more expensive paper and some only exist in electronic form.
Early 1950s: Approximately 23.5 percent of American households own a television set. All sets are black and white.
Today: Ninety-eight percent of American households have a television and of these, 76 percent have more than one. Ninety-nine percent of all televisions owned are color televisions. High definition and plasma televisions are now available.
Early 1950s: Businessman Frank MacNamara and his friend Ralph Schneider introduce the Diners Club card. This is the first credit card in history, allowing members to charge food and drinks at twenty-eight participating New York City restaurants.
Today: Travelers can carry one credit card that is accepted in countries all over the world. There are hundreds of different types of credit cards.
Early 1950s: Treating children through psychoanalytic techniques is a new practice. The main interest in using these techniques on youngsters is sparked by the publication of Anna Freud’s The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Children in 1946. It is several years before the practice is widely adopted.
Today: Child psychology is a well-established field that can be studied in major universities across the country. Some psychoanalytic techniques are still in use in the field.
Early 1950s: American children play with the Slinky toy and the Candyland board game. Today: Children spend a great deal of time playing video games.
Topics for Further Study
‘‘The Veldt’’ deals with human beings who use technology to perpetrate evil. Can you think of any other stories or films that have a similar theme? Can you think of some stories or films where technology is used for good? If you were going to write a similar story, would you portray technology as good or evil? Why?
The early 1950s was a time when the United States was gripped by a fear of Communism known as the Red Scare. Research the form of government known as Communism. What are the main ideas behind this system of government? Why do you think it seemed so threatening to the United States in the middle of the twentieth century?
In psychoanalysis, people’s thoughts and feelings are analyzed in order to help them sort out problems. What if George had sent Wendy and Peter to a psychoanalyst immediately upon realizing that the nursery was becoming a threat? Do you think the story would have turned out differently? Why or why not? What do you think Wendy and Peter would have told the psychoanalyst? Write an imaginary conversation between these three characters.
If you were going to design your own Happy-life Home, what automated conveniences would you put in it? Would you put in any safety mechanisms in case something went wrong? If so, what kind of mechanisms would you install?
Research an African veldt. What kinds of plants and animals can be found there? Do you think Bradbury’s description in the story is...
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The Illustrated Man was adapted as a film in 1969 by Jack Smight. The film stars Rod Steiger as the Illustrated Man and features only three stories from the book, including ‘‘The Veldt.’’ This is widely regarded as a terrible adaptation of Bradbury’s work, and Bradbury himself has commented that he ‘‘hates’’ this film version. It is available from Warner Studios Home Video.
The Fantastic Tales of Ray Bradbury is a 2002 audiobook adaptation of several of Bradbury’s notable stories, including ‘‘The Veldt.’’ The stories are read by the author himself. It is available from Random House Audible audio downloads at http://www.audible.com.
Another audio adaptation of ‘‘The Veldt’’ can be found in Books on Tape’s 1988 edition of The Illustrated Man. This time the classic tales are read by Michael Prichard.
The Veldt’’ was also adapted as a stage play by Bradbury himself in a compilation called The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit and Other Plays (1972). This publication is available from Bantam Books.
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What Do I Read Next?
I Sing the Body Electric! and Other Stories is an excellent collection of classic Ray Bradbury short stories. The book is filled with great science fiction and fantasy pieces that are similar to those in The Illustrated Man. Although first published in 1976, the book contains work that spans Bradbury’s early career from the 1940s through the 1970s.
Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick (2002) collects some of the very best short stories from this master of mind-bending science fiction. Dick often writes about realities that have been manufactured by media, governments, and big corporations, and his stories have been the basis for numerous science fiction films including Bladerunner, Total Recall, and Minority Report. This volume is an excellent introduction to the work of this provocative author.
Published in 2003 by Pocket Books Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe collects some of the best works of this famous author. The edition also contains a selection of critical excerpts and suggestions for further reading.
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume I contains twenty-six of the greatest science fiction stories ever written. The book was originally published in 1970 in order to honor the best science fiction writers of the day. Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and Daniel Keyes are just a few of the great writers whose works are represented.
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Bloom, Harold, “Introduction,” in Ray Bradbury, Modern Critical Views series, Chelsea House, 2001, p. 1.
Bradbury, Ray, “The Veldt,” in The Illustrated Man, 1951, reprint, William Morrow, 2001, pp. 7–25.
Knight, Damon, “When I Was in Kneepants: Ray Bradbury,” in Ray Bradbury, edited by Harold Bloom, Modern Critical Views series, Chelsea House, 2001, pp. 4–6.
McNelly, Willis E., “Ray Bradbury—Past, Present, and Future,” in Voices for the Future: Essays on Major Science Fiction Writers, edited by Thomas D. Clareson, Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1976, pp. 167, 171.
Pierce, Hazel, “Ray Bradbury and the Gothic Tradition,” in Ray Bradbury, edited by Harold Bloom, Modern Critical Views series, Chelsea House, 2001, p. 61.
Reid, Robin Anne, “The Illustrated Man,” in Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion, Greenwood Press, 2000, pp. 37, 39. Wollheim, Donald A., “We’ll Make a Star or Die Trying!” in The Universe Makers: Science Fiction Today, Harper & Row, 1971, p. 99.
Disch, Thomas M., The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World, Free Press, 1998. This book explores the impact that science fiction has had upon American culture. It shows how science fiction has been a catalyst for new realities and also how it has helped us to adjust...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury. New York: Chelsea House, 2001.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” New York: Chelsea House, 2001.
Eller, Jonathan R., and William F. Touponce. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004.
Reid, Robin Ann. Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.
Touponce, William F. Naming the Unnameable: Ray Bradbury and the Fantastic After Freud. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1997.
Weist, Jerry, and Donn Albright. Bradbury, an Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor. New York: William Morrow, 2002.
Weller, Sam. The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury. New York: William Morrow, 2005.
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