AI Fact-Check

Discuss the theme of obsession in Dahl's "Parson’s Pleasure" and Bradbury's "The Veldt."

AI Generated Answer

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

The theme of obsession is explored vividly in both "Parson's Pleasure" by Roald Dahl and "The Veldt" by Ray Bradbury, albeit through different narratives and settings.

In "Parson's Pleasure," the story centers around Mr. Boggis, an antique dealer who disguises himself as a clergyman to exploit unsuspecting families by buying valuable antiques from them at low prices. His obsession is with acquiring rare antiques at a steal, which he justifies under the guise of his false parson persona. This obsession drives every action and decision he makes, leading him to manipulate and deceive. His obsession ultimately leads to his downfall when the unsuspecting family he tries to deceive destroys the valuable piece he covets, a Chippendale commode, to make it easier to transport, believing it to be a mere copy. This story highlights how Boggis’s obsession not only morally corrupts him but also blinds him to the humanity of others, viewing them merely as means to an end.

In contrast, "The Veldt" explores the obsession with technology in a futuristic setting, where a family lives in a house that automates every aspect of their lives. The children, Peter and Wendy, become obsessed with a virtual reality room called the nursery, which can create any landscape they imagine. The nursery becomes a manifestation of the African veldt, complete with lions and vultures, reflecting the children's increasingly dark and detached psyche. Their obsession with this virtual world leads to a chilling climax where the technology, which was supposed to serve and protect them, enables the children's detachment from reality and their ultimate betrayal of their parents. The story critiques the potential dehumanizing effects of technology when it replaces genuine human interaction and becomes an obsession.

Both stories use obsession to critique human behavior—whether it's the greed and deceit spurred by an obsession with material gain in "Parson's Pleasure," or the alienation and loss of control that can come from an obsession with technological advancement in "The Veldt." Each narrative serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of allowing our obsessions to dictate our actions without consideration of the moral or personal consequences.

Expert Answers

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

The AI-generated answer is accurate and explains how both stories address obsession. Below, I have answered your question with additional insights that can complement and enhance the previous answer.

Here are some additional points on the theme of obsession in "Parson's Pleasure" and "The Veldt."

In "Parson's Pleasure," Dahl uses vivid descriptions to highlight the depth of Boggis's obsession with antiques. The text notes how he would "gaze ardently" at the objects, his eyes "devouring every line and plane of it." His obsession is almost fetishistic, described in sensual terms that borderline on the erotic. This underscores how all-consuming his desire for rare antiques has become.

The story also subtly suggests that Boggis's obsession has cost him normal human relationships and connections. He lives alone, only interacting with people under the guise of his parson persona to manipulate them. His fixation on acquiring objects has seemingly replaced any need for genuine bonds. His obsession has made him emotionally isolated.

In "The Veldt," Bradbury comments on the dangers of technology replacing family relationships through Peter and Wendy's unhealthy obsession with the nursery. The more obsessed they become with their virtual sanctuary, the more disdainful and hostile they grow toward their actual parents, who facilitated it. Their obsession warps their values and sense of right and wrong.

The ending, where the lions from the veldt materialize and turn on the parents, symbolizes how an obsession with technological constructs can become so twisted that it enables one to rationalize harm against flesh-and-blood human beings. Peter and Wendy's obsession has dehumanized them to the point of viewing violence against their parents as natural.

So, while both stories caution against obsessive fixations in different ways, they share the underlying theme that obsession can cause people to lose perspective, humanity, and empathy when taken to extremes.

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 Reviewed by eNotes Editorial on