What narrative conventions does Bradbury use in his short story "The Veldt"?
Like others, Bradbury, whose story was published in 1951, was concerned about the long-range effects of technological advancement, so in order to subtly create the horrors that can develop from misuse of technology, Bradbury employs several narrative conventions:
As one critic writes, Bradbury always commences his stories with strong expositions. In "The Veldt," Bradbury begins by supplying "bits of provocative information" through the use of dialogue:
"George, I wish you’d look at the nursery."
"What’s wrong with it?"
"I don’t know."
"I just want you to look at it, is all, or call a
psychologist in to look at it."
"What would a psychologist want with a nursery?"
"....It's just that the nursery is different now than it was."
In this dialogue, the reader grasps that there is some connection between technology and the human mind, suggesting that problems may occur.
Later, unlocking the door to the nursery, a virtual African veldt, George hears "a faraway scream" and roar of lions. Within there is an oppressive atmosphere of African heat, and George discovers an old wallet of his and a bloody scarf of his wife Lydia. Also, the presence of vultures in the veldt is suggestive of death, especially as this presence is followed by a shadow that "flickered on George Hadley's upturned, sweating face."
The mood, or emotion, conveyed by Bradbury's setting is somewhat vague as on the one hand, there is a sense of foreboding with the oppressive environment of the African veldt--"this yellow hot Africa, this bake oven with murder in the heat"--contrasted with former settings in the nursery of "Alice in Wonderland," "Aladdin and his Magical Lamp," "Oz," and the like. When the lions look up from their eating and watch George.
Later after George questions his children about the African setting, Peter denies that there is such an environment. When the father opens the door, he is met with a lovely pastoral scene. The incongruities of the atmosphere create suspense and concern in Bradbury's narrative.
IRONIC TWISTS TO THE FAMILIAR
This technique of taking something very familiar and altering it in some way is one that is used by Bradbury consistently. Calling the room that the children have a "nursery" contrasts with the horror of the room. Also, the names of the children suggest innocence as Wendy and Peter are pulled from the fantasy of Peter Pan.
After the murder of her parents, Wendy calmly offers tea to McClean.
Bradbury makes frequent use of symbolism, metaphor, simile, and personification. For instance, his allusion to yellow with respect to the veldt symbolizes the evil that lies within the nursery setting. Of course, the vultures in the setting symbolize the future deaths of the parents as well as their deaths at the end.
Frequent similes establish comparisons that are disturbing. For example, when George Hadley turns off the veldt, Bradbury narrates, "It felt like a mechanical cemetery."
Employing metaphors, Bradbury writes that the "yellow hot Africa," "this bake oven with murder in the heat" differs from the other "gymnastic fantasies" of the children.
Personification recurs in Bradbury's narrative: the door "trembles"; when Lydia sits in a chair, it begins to "rock and comfort her." As she and George eat supper, they notice that there is no ketchup. "'Sorry'" said a small voice within the table, and ketchup appeared."