The Veldt Questions and Answers
by Ray Bradbury

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What are the two similes Bradbury uses to describe Peter's and Wendy's physical traits? What is ironic about these choices of similes in "The Veldt"?

In "The Veldt," two similes Bradbury uses to describe Peter and Wendy's physical traits are "cheeks like peppermint candy, eyes like bright blue agate marbles." These similes are ironic because they create images of old-fashioned childhood innocence. However, Peter and Wendy have shed childlike innocence and become hardened individuals capable of murdering their parents.

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A simile is a comparison of two unalike things in which the word like or as is used. When Wendy and Peter arrive at home from the carnival they'd been visiting, the narrator says that they were "coming in the front door, cheeks like peppermint candy, eyes like bright blue agate marbles." Irony is created when what we expect to happen is different from what actually does happen.

In this story, the similes used to describe Peter and Wendy make them seem incredibly innocent and childlike. They don't even want dinner because they are full of strawberry ice cream and hot dogs: more signs of their innocence. They are immediately linked to a childhood candy and a childhood toy based on these similes, and this helps the reader to establish expectations of these characters: we expect the children described as being like candy and toys to be likewise simple and sweet. In reality, Wendy and Peter are anything but. We are often taught that the eyes are the windows to the soul, so when Wendy and Peter's eyes are described as being bright and blue, like a cloudless sky, we imagine that their souls are just as pure and unclouded by selfishness or hate. However, when they murder their parents, trapping George and Lydia Hadley in the nursery with the lions, which are very much alive, we understand the irony created by these similes. The children are not at all what the similes would lead us to expect.

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A simile is a comparison using the words like or as. The two similes used to describe Peter and Wendy are as follows:

Wendy and Peter were coming in the front door, cheeks like peppermint candy, eyes like bright blue agate marbles.

Verbal irony occurs when words mean the opposite of their surface meaning. In this case, the similes that describe Wendy and Peter conjure old-fashioned childhood innocence. They harken back to a time when children ate peppermint candy and played with marbles. Their bright cheeks and bright eyes also connote old-fashioned, healthy outdoor play, an idea contradicted by the smell of ozone on their clothing from the helicopter.

The similes are ironic because Wendy and Peter are not old-fashioned, innocent children. Due to the technology of the nursery and being spoiled by their parents, they have hardened into a new kind of modern children who are capable of cold-bloodedly murdering their parents.

It is worth noting, too, that their names are ironic. Peter and Wendy are the main characters in Barrie's Peter Pan, a book that celebrates the innocence of childhood and the desire to stay a child. While the original Peter and Wendy go on magical adventures as the later children do in their nursery, the originals do so as innocents. The later Peter and Wendy, ironically opposite to the originals, shed childhood too soon rather than clinging to it too long.

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Here are the two similes that Ray Bradbury uses to describe Peter and Wendy:

  1. They have "cheeks like peppermint candy."
  2. They also have "eyes like bright blue agate marbles."

What is ironic about these similes is that they are in sharp contrast to the reality of the children's natures. These descriptions connote innocent cherub-like children with wide eyes and rosy cheeks--the children out of fairy tales, as their names also suggest. But, in the story the natures of Peter and Wendy are much more ominous than they are innocent. For, when George tells the children that he and Lydia are considering shutting off the nursery, Peter threatens, "I don't think you'd better consider it any more, Father." And, when George replies angrily, "I won't have any threats from my son," Peter simply says, "Very well," and he walks away to the nursery.

Further, when David McClean, a friend and psychologist, and George throw the switch in the fuse box that connects to the nursery, the two children become hysterical: "They screamed and pranced and threw things." Then they fling themselves onto the couch, crying. When their mother hears them, she begs George to let the children back in because she succumbs to their supplication, "...just one moment, just another moment of nursery." 

As George and Lydia descend the stairs after returning to their bedroom, they hear the children calling them, so they rush into the nursery, but the veldt is empty except for lions, who watch them. They call to Peter and Wendy the only sound is that of a door slam. George realizes that they are locked in and calls to the children; then he hears Peter's voice: "Don't let them switch off the nursery and the house." He and his wife beat at the door, insisting that it is time for them to go. Instead, they hear the lions; they scream, and they recognize those screams they had heard earlier. Their boy and girl--sinister children that they really are--have no rosy cheeks or eyes clear like blue marbles.

 

  

 

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jcphelps76 | Student

Bradbury describes Peter and Wendy as having "cheeks like peppermint candy, eyes like bright blue agate marbles." 

Peter and Wendy merely looked like sweet, adorable little children. Behind the similes of peppermint candy cheeks and bright blue eyes lurked a horror story -- steeped in irony -- playing itself out in virtual reality. "Looks can be deceiving," and "Don't judge a book by its cover," are some adages that help examine the irony of the similes. 

As parents tend to do, these parents believed what they could see: beautiful little children. They were deceived by the innocent appearances; and, even though the father entertained suspicious thoughts, he brushed them aside.

The angelic-looking children, obsessed by death and killing, eventually manage to lure their parents into the African veldt in the nursery one last time. Simile and irony come together in the children as they act out their final, happy but unnatural vengeance.

Although you didn't ask, I see irony in the children's names because they were total opposites of Peter and Wendy in "Peter Pan."