At a Glance

  • "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.

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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

(Short Stories for Students)

Nuclear Proliferation and the Cold War
World War II ended in 1945 when Germany and Japan surrendered to the Allied forces but, unfortunately, the war’s end set the stage for a major struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. These countries had very different goals for the post–World War II world. The United States supported free market capitalism while the Soviet Union believed in a communist society in which property and resources are owned by the nation as a whole, and production is controlled by the national government. Each country’s people thought that their own political and economic system was the best, and they were very suspicious of outsiders. The Soviet Union was particularly worried because the United States had used nuclear bombs during the war. The Soviets were also concerned about the United States being the only superpower to have nuclear capabilities, so they quickly began to develop their own nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union successfully tested its first atomic bomb in 1949, long before the United...

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