illustrated portrait of American author Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

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Student Question

What dystopian elements are present in Bradbury's "The Veldt" and "The Pedestrian," and how do they compare to our world? How are people and language affected in these stories?

Expert Answers

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1. "The Veldt" is dystopian in that the technology that is supposed to bring the Hadley family happiness only brings them misery and, for the parents, death. The world is different from our own in that the technology the house offers—the extent to which it cares for the family—is more advanced than our own:

They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home, which had costthem thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them.

Mostly, however, this seems to be a middle-class suburban world still very familiar to how many live in the United States.

2. The story depicts a science/technology dystopia. Instead of serving people, the technology of the house harms people. It has taken control of their lives and sets the children against the parents:

“That’s just it. I feel like I don’t belong here. The house is wife and mother now, and nursemaid. Can I compete with an African veldt? Can I give a bath and scrub the children as efficiently or quickly as the automatic scrub bath can? I cannot. And it isn’t just me. It’s you. You’ve been awfully nervous lately.”

3. The people are different in reflecting a 1950s ethos. For example, Mrs. Hadley expects to find her fulfillment through being a homemaker. Like us, however, people believe material goods will bring them happiness. Similar us, too, the Hadley turn to a mental health professional for guidance on dealing with their children. The psychologist says:

My advice to you is to have the whole damn room torn down and your children brought to me every day during the next year for treatment.

4. Concepts of "happiness" in this world are defined solely in terms of material and technological well-being. Happiness is having everything done for you. Happiness, people are told, can be purchased for a price. The Hadley realize too late that happiness is primarily a spiritual state.

1. In "The Pedestrian" people have become so divorced from the natural world and so wedded to technology that Leonard Mead is arrested for taking a walk. This world is different from ours in that walking is treated as social deviancy. For deviating from social norms, Mr. Mead is taken to "the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies." In other words, he is being treated as insane for walking, as well as for not having a viewing screen and not being married. Today, we are more tolerant of difference. However, this world is like ours in that people tend to be more divorced from nature than previous generations.

2. "The Pedestrian" is another technological dystopia. Technology has displaced nature as the center of people's lives, and it dictates that people behave in rigidly conformist ways. It is also a political dystopia: the police enforce conformity. When Mr. Mead walks, he is arrested:

A metallic voice called to him:

"Stand still. Stay where you are! Don't move!"

He halted.

"Put up your hands!"

3. As mentioned, people in this story seem to be much more conformist than we are. They are like us in that we are also wedded to our technology and more likely to be watching a scene of nature on our screens than out in nature. Bradbury calls their homes "tombs:'

The tombs, ill-lit by television light, where the people sat like the dead, the gray or multicolored lights touching their faces, but never really touching them.

4. People are categorized as either normal and sane if they conform to the culture or as potentially insane if they don't.

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