What's the climax of "The Veldt"?

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karythcara's profile pic

Karyth Cara | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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"The Veldt" is a parental horror story that ends, ironically, in horror dealt to the parents (ironically, because they are horrified by what they witness in the nursery not knowing that the nursery will give them their own horrifying end). The climax of this horror story wrapped in convenience and luxury is when the fates of the family members are irreversibly sealed behind the slammed door of the nursery: the children go their way to tea parties among lions and the parents go their way to the feast of lions.

As the emotional impact of the story mounts with every warning word George utters, the children become more and more assertive and more and more quietly aggressive. Their aggression builds as a quiet thunder because they know they have the ingenuity and power on their side: ingenuity, because they can manipulate the parents to their own will through wiles based on their parents' love and protectiveness; power, because they possess the mental keys to access the nursery's demonstrated ability to change reality; the nursery's power has been demonstrated in George's blood stained wallet and in Lydia's "bloody scarf":

"Hello." [McClean] bent and picked up a bloody scarf. "This yours?"
   "No." George Hadley's face was rigid. "It belongs to Lydia."

The climax to this mounting emotional tension and conflict comes when the door slams behind George and Lydia who are then trapped in the nursery behind a locked door and surrounded by lions: "The lions on three sides of them, in the yellow veldt grass, ... roaring in their throats." Leading up to this moment, Wendy and Peter have devised a plan. They call out to their mother and father as though in danger, "'Daddy,  Mommy, come quick - quick!'" With the children "nowhere in sight," George and Lydia naturally rush to the nursery, throwing open the door and dashing inside. Africa is in place. The lions are there, "waiting." The door slams behind them. The climax is ushered in to the screams of both as George yells "Open the door!" Peter tries one cold, chilling time to negotiate a victory for themselves and the nursery: "Don't let them switch off the nursery ...." George replies, "Now, don't be ridiculous...." And then, as the climax, the parents heard the waiting lions:

   And then they heard the sounds.
   The lions on three sides of them, in  the yellow veldt grass, ...rumbling and roaring....

The climactic fates of George and Lydia are sealed. The story resolves despite them. They have no more decisions to make. After this climax comes the falling action and the resolution wherein Wendy offers tea to McClean in the silence replacing her parents screams, and the lions feed quietly under "shady trees" in the background.

At a distance Mr. McClean saw the lions ... quieting down to feed in silence under the shady trees.
     [McClean] squinted at the lions with his hand tip to his eyes.
     Now the lions were done feeding. They moved to the water hole to drink.
     A shadow flickered over Mr. McClean's hot face. Many shadows flickered. The vultures were dropping down the blazing sky.
     "A cup of tea?" asked Wendy in the silence.

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teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

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All through "The Veldt," the tension has built until, at the climax, the parents, locked in the nursery by their children, hear the lions and see them coming closer. They scream and as they do so realize that past screams they heard in the nursery were their own:

And then they heard the sounds. The lions on three sides of them, in the yellow veldt grass, padding through the dry straw, rumbling and roaring in their throats. The lions. Mr. Hadley looked at his wife and they turned and looked back at the beasts edging slowly forward crouching, tails stiff. Mr. and Mrs. Hadley screamed. And suddenly they realized why those other screams had sounded familiar.

Bradbury uses description to drive the emotional intensity of this scene. He cuts away from the scene prior to the lions killing the parents, letting the readers draw their own conclusions about what happened next. 

After this climax, the rising tension breaks. The next scene is calm and seemingly "normal," though all the more unsettling and chilling for its "normalcy": the children sit in the nursery where the lions feed and vultures descend, while politely offering Mr. McClean, who has just arrived, a cup of tea.

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bcutty007's profile pic

bcutty007 | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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The climax of any story is the highest point of action in the story, the point where all the rising action comes to a head. In my opinion, the climax of this story is when the parents are locked in the nursery and finally recognize and understand why the screams seemed so familiar. After this moment the falling action and the story come together leading to the resolution in which the children have killed their parents and feel no remorse. The house and the nursery have taken the place of their parents.

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