The Veldt Analysis

  • "The Veldt" features two distinct settings: the Hadley's Happylife Home and the African veldt. These disparate environments converge in the Hadley's nursery, where Wendy and Peter use advanced sensory technology to recreate the veldt, which represents freedom from their parents and space to express their hostility. By contrast, the Happylife Home is defined by its unhappiness and its secrets.
  • The African lions are the literal and metaphorical embodiment of Wendy and Peter's hatred of their parents. At first, the lions are just fantasies, inhabitants of a virtual world that poses no physical threat to George and Lydia. Gradually, as Wendy and Peter's hostility grows, the lions become more real, until finally they bridge the gap between reality and fantasy and attack.
  • Bradbury injects humor into the story through the use of satirical advertising slogans like "nothing's too good for our children." His description of the Happylife Home seems anything but, because the automation of day-to-day tasks leaves the children with nothing to do but foster their hostility for their parents.

Analysis

Style and Technique

Bradbury’s style is marked by lyricism and a profusion of metaphors. In “The Veldt,” these create an illusion of reality that brilliantly mirrors the deceptions that the characters in the story undergo. His description of the electronically produced African veldt contains such exact sensory details that it almost seems to be real, and indeed it is by the story’s end. Moreover, his description of the veldt also conveys an atmosphere of menace and hostility mirroring the psychological state of the Hadley family. In a similar fashion, Bradbury employs active verbs and personifications, describing the workings of the house’s mechanical devices in a way that suggests the living, human quality that the house is acquiring. When the devices are turned off, the house is a “mechanical cemetery,” reinforcing the idea that the house is a living thing.

Characteristically, Bradbury’s poetic style transports the reader out of the everyday world and into a fantasy world, often reminiscent of the unchecked imagination of childhood. The world of “The Veldt” is one in which childhood fantasies are made concrete. Hence, the story has an air of unreality about it as if it were simply a child’s daydream of a world in which children have the power and competence given to adults and adults have the helplessness of children.

This dreamlike quality is counterbalanced by the use of clichés and advertising language, which levels a satiric thrust against modern society. Phrases such as “nothing’s too good for our children” and “every home should have one” direct attention to the permissiveness, commercialism, and worship of material comforts that dominate American life. These serve to anchor the bizarre events of the story in an objective framework and give the child’s daydream an adult moral.

Historical Context

Nuclear Proliferation and the Cold War
World War II ended in 1945 when Germany and Japan surrendered to the Allied forces but,...

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Literary Style

Ambience
Ambience is the emotional tone that pervades a work of fiction. In “The Veldt” Bradbury sets up a tense, oppressive...

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Compare and Contrast

Early 1950s: The minimum wage is $0.75 per hour.

Today: The minimum wage is $5.15 per hour.

Early 1950s: Pulp fiction magazines are widely read, but their popularity is on the decline due to competition from television, comic books, and the paperback novel.

Today: Very few pulp fiction magazines exist. Most books are now printed on more expensive paper and some only exist in electronic form.

Early 1950s: Approximately 23.5 percent of American households own a television set. All sets are black and white.

Today: Ninety-eight percent of American households have a television and of these, 76 percent have more than one. Ninety-nine percent of all televisions owned are color televisions. High definition and plasma televisions are now available.

Early 1950s: Businessman Frank MacNamara and his friend Ralph Schneider introduce the Diners Club card. This is the first credit card in history, allowing members to charge food and drinks at twenty-eight participating New York City restaurants.

Today: Travelers can carry one credit card that is accepted in countries all over the world. There are hundreds of different types of credit cards.

Early 1950s: Treating children through psychoanalytic techniques is a new practice. The main interest in using these techniques on youngsters is sparked by the publication of Anna Freud’s The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Children in 1946. It is several years before the practice is widely adopted.

Today: Child psychology is a well-established field that can be studied in major universities across the country. Some psychoanalytic techniques are still in use in the field.

Early 1950s: American children play with the Slinky toy and the Candyland board game. Today: Children spend a great deal of time playing video games.

Topics for Further Study

‘‘The Veldt’’ deals with human beings who use technology to perpetrate evil. Can you think of any other stories or films that have a...

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Media Adaptations

The Illustrated Man was adapted as a film in 1969 by Jack Smight. The film stars Rod Steiger as the Illustrated Man and features only...

(The entire section is 165 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

I Sing the Body Electric! and Other Stories is an excellent collection of classic Ray Bradbury short stories. The book is filled with...

(The entire section is 288 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Bloom, Harold, “Introduction,” in Ray Bradbury, Modern Critical Views series, Chelsea House, 2001, p. 1....

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Bibliography

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury. New York: Chelsea House, 2001.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” New York: Chelsea House, 2001.

Eller, Jonathan R., and William F. Touponce. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004.

Reid, Robin Ann. Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Touponce, William F. Naming the Unnameable: Ray Bradbury and the Fantastic After Freud. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1997.

Weist, Jerry, and Donn Albright. Bradbury, an Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor. New York: William Morrow, 2002.

Weller, Sam. The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury. New York: William Morrow, 2005.