What is the irony in "The Veldt"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The irony in "The Veldt" is that the family has automated factors added to their house in order to simplify and ease their lives so that they have more time to spend with each other. However, instead of bringing the family together, they become estranged from one another.

As Lydia and George Hadley stand and watch the automated stove humming as it makes supper for four, Lydia suggests that they go on a vacation and she can fry eggs for George and sweep the house. She tells her husband that the house now has become wife and mother, and she no longer feels needed. Then, she remarks to George,

"You look as if you don't know what to do with yourself in this house, either....You're beginning to feel unnecessary, too."

In addition, neither parent can compete with the automation for the affection and interest of their children. Lydia cannot bathe her children as well as the automatic scrub bath. They both cannot compete with the African veldt, a virtual reality created within the children's playroom where they sequester themselves. In fact, the virtual reality of the children's nursery causes Wendy and Peter to become alienated from their parents, even to the point of hating them.

The children, as George observes, have become "insufferable," coming and going as they please, ignoring their parents. When he suggests that they go on a vacation together, Peter threatens, "That sounds dreadful....I don't think you better consider it any more, Father."

After the parents call in a child psychologist, he informs them that the room has replaced them in their children's affections. He suggests that the room be turned off. But, when Peter hears of the shutting down of the nursery, he is livid, telling his father, "Oh, I hate you!"

So, just as they prepare to leave on vacation, the children scurry into the nursery. "Daddy, Mommy, come quick--quick!" they cry. The parents rush into the nursery. "The veldtland was empty save for the lions waiting, looking at them." The children have sealed them in. Mr. and Mrs. Hadley scream, then realize whose screams they have heard before. It is too late for reform.

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