In "The Veldt," why did Wendy and Peter focus their attention on the African veldt?

In "The Veldt," Wendy and Peter Hadley focus their attention on the African veldt because it is an environment where animals act without regard for the feelings of others. Wendy and Peter have essentially been raised by their Happylife Home instead of by their actual parents. They have not learned to feel empathy or love or loyalty, and they see their parents as obstacles to their freedom. The veldt offers a way to escape their parents' rules.

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The Hadley children are named after Wendy Darling and Peter Pan, children who live, for some time, quite happily and freely without parents. Peter Pan, especially, never wants to grow up, and Wendy Darling also chafes against the idea of leaving the nursery she shares with her two younger brothers. To an extent, both would like to remain as children forever but without the influence of parents, as this position would certainly award them the most freedom.

This is, evidently, what Peter and Wendy Hadley desire as well: they want to do what they want when they want, and their parents, George and Lydia, stand in their way when they limit the children's access to the nursery. Because the Hadley children have, essentially, been parented by the house itself via its various functions—rather than by people—they have not learned empathy or love, and they feel no loyalty toward the adults who do little to parent them and only serve as obstacles.

In the African veldt, the children observe a world where animals feel no empathy but, instead, act to satisfy their wants and needs without concern for the feelings of others. It is brutal, certainly, but so are the children as a result of their parentage. Perhaps they feel a sort of kinship with this environment because they want to be rid of their parents, and they want to be free to act like the animals do.

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The text of Ray Bradbury's 1950 short story entitled "The Veldt" provides many clues as to why Wendy and Peter focus their attention on the African veldt.

Bradbury's story is futuristic, imagining a time when houses do everything for the inhabitants. In this case, the HappyLife Home cooks, cleans, bathes, entertains, and takes care of every aspect of daily living. The children have a nursery that reads their thoughts and brings their imaginations to life, complete with three-dimensional visuals, smells, and sounds. Lydia and George Hadley have catered to their children's whims in every way. When they become concerned about the nursery, they divulge the children's obsession with it to the reader. Consider this exchange between George and Lydia, in which George is asking his wife to lock the nursery:

“And lock the nursery for a few days until I get my nerves settled.”

“You know how difficult Peter is about that. When I punished him a month ago by locking the nursery for even a few hours — the tantrum be threw! And Wendy too. They live for the nursery.”

“It’s got to be locked, that’s all there is to it.”

“All right.”

Later, George is reflecting on his decision to purchase the HappyLife Home system and thinking about how it works. He hints as to why Wendy and Peter would be conjuring an African veldt—they are thinking about revenge and death.

"Remarkable how the nursery caught the telepathic emanations of the children’s minds and created life to fill their every desire. The children thought lions, and there were lions. The children thought zebras, and there were zebras. Sun — sun. Giraffes — giraffes. Death and death. That last. He chewed tastelessly on the meat that the table had cut for him. Death thoughts. They were awfully young, Wendy and Peter, for death thoughts. Or, no, you were never too young, really. Long before you knew what death was you were wishing it on someone else. When you were two years old you were shooting people with cap pistols."

George and Lydia begin reflecting on the things that have gone wrong. George repeats a proverb that says children are like carpets—they must be stepped on occasionally. He reflects that he and his wife have never lifted a finger to correct their children. He admits to his wife that the children have become insufferable, and points to several examples in which they as parents had to say no for safety reasons. Their children's requests have become more and more outrageous. The parents call in a psychologist who explains that the purpose of the room is to analyze children's neuroses and then provide treatment. His recommendation is to immediately close the nursery and bring the children to him every day for treatment.

But Wendy and Peter have become addicted to the nursery, and virtually estranged from their parents. They know that their parents are the only thing that stands between them and the nursery. They have set a trap to dispose of their parents in the nursery, in an African veldt.

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For Wendy and Peter, the nursery is the center of their lives in their Happylife home. The home does everything for the family, leaving the family, especially, Mrs. Hadley, at loose ends. The Happylife nursery "parents" the children, indulging their desire to watch films of the African veldt. According to the psychologist, David McClean, who comes to evaluate the children after the parents become concerned about their obsessive interest in the veldt and its harsh "law of the jungle" ethos, including the screams of people being eaten by lions, the psychologist advises that they turn off the view screens in the nursery. The veldt dehumanizes the children and allows them to indulge the natural aggressions children feel toward their parents to an unnatural level.

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