Why does Bradbury refer to the virtual reality room as the "nursery" in "The Veldt"?

Quick answer:

In "The Veldt," the term "nursery" has specific connotations which alternative terms such as "game room" or "playroom" tend to lack. Nurseries are specific to the experience of early childhood and, furthermore, implies a nurturing and caregiving component, as the place where a child is raised, components that powerfully reflect the themes of Bradbury's story in ways that these other words would not.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Looking up the word nursery in a dictionary, you will find a definition like the following:

1(a): an infant's bedroom b) a room or apartment in a home, set apart for the children as a playroom, study, dining room, etc. (Webster's New World College Dictionary)

What you see in these (and other) definitions is that the term nursery contains specific connotations related to childhood (and specifically early childhood), connotations that would be lost were Bradbury to use a different word choice. Take, for example, game room: one can easily imagine an adult's version of a game room, featuring perhaps a pool table or a table for card games. It is not necessarily exclusive towards the childhood experience in the same way that a nursery is.

This is important, given how central childhood is as a theme within "The Veldt." You can see this strongly reflected even in the children's names, Peter and Wendy: these names serve as an allusion to the story of Peter Pan, the story of a young boy who refuses to grow up, preferring to remain in a state of perpetual adolescence. One might interpret the children of "The Veldt" as exhibiting a similar attitude. Just as Peter Pan refuses to grow up and leave childhood behind, one might suggest that the same thing applies to Bradbury's Peter and Wendy, given their dependency on the nursery and what this dependency might mean on a thematic and developmental level.

Furthermore, it is also worth noting that the word nursery, in addition to specifically reflecting the experience of early childhood, involves a nurturing component to it as well. A nursery, one might say, is where the child is cared for and raised, in contrast to a playroom or a game room, which would have a much more limited dynamic, as a place whose sole purpose is recreation. This makes Bradbury's word selection all the more thematically important, given that the nursery in "The Veldt" is more than simply a place for recreation or games. With the parents having surrendered all responsibility for raising their children to the nursery, the nursery has taken up their role as primary caregiver in the children's lives.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the nursery in "The Veldt" by Ray Bradbury?

The nursery in "The Veldt" is a very large room that displays interactive, immersive computer simulations that respond to and reflect the thoughts of the participants. In short, it is like an advanced form of virtual reality.

David McClean, the psychologist in the story, seems to imply that the nursery technology originally was used as a therapeutic tool rather than a consumer product; the intention was to observe the "patterns" that the child interacting with the computer produced in order to gain an insight into trauma. However, since the technology has apparently become commercialized, it has instead taken a turn for more entertainment-based functions, and has essentially replaced nearly all other forms of leisure for the Hadley children, including their relationship with their parents.

The nursery is operated by a computer, whose technology is implied to be more advanced than our own. The computer is capable of obeying both thought commands and spoken ones, and can create a wide variety of environments, which it displays on the walls of the nursery. The illusion is supported by chemical scents and weather, as indicated by the sun causes characters to sweat. 

The ending of the story does not clarify whether the Hadley's nursery was malfunctioning, or if Peter and Wendy had somehow hacked it to respond only to their commands, or to alter its functions. However, the nursery does not respond to their father's orders, and it is somehow able to make the lions tangible enough to kill their parents, which seems to defy the idea that the images are all "behind glass screens" as Mr. Hadley had stated.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What's interesting about Bradbury's use of the word "nursery" in "The Veldt"?

The use of "nursery" is interesting and ironic since it is the most dangerous room in the house, and anything but a nursery as the children are not babies, and their games are anything but harmless children's activities.

     Also ironically interesting is the use of the names Peter and Wendy, which are suggestive of the fantasy novel Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. This is a charming children's story about a boy who refuses to mature into a man, and wants Wendy to remain a child with him. However, Wendy is allowed to return home when she tells Peter that her place is at home.
     But, what is interesting about the nursery, too, is that rather than being a soothing bedroom, it is the room in which Mr. and Mrs. Hadley are destroyed as the children's room has evolved into much more than intended. For, the virtual reality has overtaken the true reality, and the children become confused in their use of the technology, believing that their anger against their parents is justified because the room, the nursery, encourages the children in their sadistic desires. Thus, the technology produces the reverse effect from what has been intended. Rather than provide the children an outlet for their energy or negativity, the Veldt becomes a sinister room.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on