What aspects of contemporary family life do the “Happylife Home” and the nursery satirize? What exactly have the Hadleys “purchased” for their $30,000 (plus $15,000 extra for the nursery)? What do the amenities of the “Happylife Home” offer them?
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To satirize is to mock and ridicule, to make fun of. Ray Bradbury, in this unnerving story, makes fun of contemporary society's obsession with comfort and the desire to achieve it. Modern day society has developed an obsession with everything that will seemingly make life easier. It has created and developed machines that do what, in the past, were seen as regular, everyday chores, such as washing up, cleaning the floors and, most importantly, raising children.
Many of these elementary tasks are now being done by machines that are electronically controlled. Tasks can be completed with the push of a button. Even parenting has found a substitute; modern-day children probably spend more time playing with electronic devices than they do with their parents. The machine has become a surrogate parent.
Bradbury exaggerates these issues in his story. George and Lydia Hadley have bought a house and a nursery that do everything. They and their children, Wendy and Peter, don't have to lift a finger. Their every need and want in the house are catered to. Even taking care of their personal hygiene is a task they don't need to undertake. The family is washed, fed, put to bed, and generally pampered and spoilt.
It becomes clear that the family has become so dependent on the house that they are unable to each help themselves. The psychiatrist, David McClean, at one point states that George would not even be able to cook an egg without the machines. He mentions that they built their house around creature comforts. In effect, their desire to be taken care of has essentially disabled them. It is for this reason that he suggests that the family, ironically, take a vacation away from the house. The excursion would give them an opportunity to review their situation and maybe decide to dramatically change things and regain their independence.
So, what did the Hadleys buy? They thought that their purchase would fulfill their every need. In buying the house, they sought something that would make their lives easier and comfortable. This is exactly what it did. However, what they did not contend with was, firstly, that they would become completely dependent on it and, as such, technically incapacitated. Secondly, they have become bored because they have nothing to do for themselves. Thirdly, but more importantly, they have been be replaced by the nursery, as George so aptly notes:
The house is wife and mother now, and nurse for the children.
The psychiatrist, David McClean, expresses the same sentiment later:
You’ve let this room and this house replace you and your wife in your children’s feelings.
George and Lydia's love and care for their children would not become a factor at all since they naively believe that providing every material comfort for their two children would be enough to ensure their happiness. How wrong they were. The family became devoid of any real care and the children became obsessed with their nursery, for it could give them whatever they felt they needed. Their every wish was its command and they were spoilt rotten.
Ironically, all that the house offered the poor unfortunate couple in the end was their own untimely demise. They had spoilt their children so badly that the two rotters decided to turn on their parents when they could not get their own way. They manipulated their nursery and instructed it to kill their parents, which is exactly what eventually happened.
The Happylife Home and nursery in "The Veldt" satirize the inventions of the early 20th Century that made life more convenient for many Americans and the rise of television, which became a regular household item about the time the story was published in 1950.
It's important to look at the history surrounding the writing and publication of "The Veldt." The early 20th Century saw a boom in the creation of items that made life in America easier. Automobiles, radios, televisions, escalators, air conditioning, refrigerators, and electric washing machines were all invented in the decades before Ray Bradbury wrote this story.
In "The Veldt," Bradbury takes the convenience created in this part of the century and extrapolates what might happen in the near future. This is how the Happylife Home and nursery are created. The family has become completely dependent on the home. When George suggests they shut off the house entirely, Lydia, the wife, says the following:
"[Y]ou'll have to change your life. Like too many others, you've built it around creature comforts. Why, you'd starve tomorrow if something went wrong in the kitchen. You wouldn't know how to tap an egg."
This dependence on household items has continued today. Cell phones, computers and cable television have becomes items originally created for convenience into things that have become crutches for people. Removing these items from peoples' hands can be a traumatic experience. This is why "The Veldt" remains relevant today.
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