What two points about modern life is Bradbury making in the following sentence from "The Veldt"?

"At dinner they ate alone, for Wendy and Peter were at a special plastic carnival across town and had televised home to say they'd be late, to go ahead eating."

Quick answer:

One point that Bradbury makes in the sentence from "The Veldt" is that the children do not feel bonded to their parents. A second point is that the children have used technology to take control of their family. They don't ask for permission to stay at the carnival. Instead, they televise to their parents that they won't be home.

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The science fiction short story “The Veldt” examines a futuristic, fully automated house and its effect on its occupants, the Hadley family. Named the HappyLife Home, it anticipates and fulfills the Hadleys’ needs and desires. It

clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them.

One night, the parents, George and Lydia, realize that the special nursery—which transforms into any imagined scene—has turned into an open grassland or African veldt according to their children’s wishes. Their daughter, Wendy, and son, Peter, have become obsessed with the playroom and conjured it into a veldt with malevolent elements, like vultures and bloodthirsty lions.

After discussing their concern about the frightful nursery as well as their unease with life in the automated house, the parents find themselves dining without their children.

At dinner they ate alone, for Wendy and Peter were at a special plastic carnival across town and had televised home to say they’d be late, to go ahead eating.

In this description, Bradbury emphasizes two sobering observations about modern life. First, inanimate objects serve as replacements for human parents. Second, children are disconnected from their parents. Technology of modern life destroys healthy human bonds.

First, Wendy and Peter would rather spend time “at a special plastic carnival” than with their parents. The word “plastic” connotes artificiality and cheapness; something plastic—like a toy—is usually mass-produced, manmade, and disposable. A “carnival” is filled with garish objects of amusement, many of which are mechanized. To the children, all of these unnatural, cold, hard, cookie-cutter, factory-made items are preferable to their parents, who are actual human beings.

Other places in the story emphasize how the parents have acquiesced to technology. Lydia realizes,

The house is wife and mother now, and nurse for the children. Can I compete with an African veldt? Can I give a bath and clean the children as efficiently or quickly as the automatic body wash can?

She tells George,

You look as if you didn’t know what to do with yourself in this house, either .… You’re beginning to feel unnecessary too.

Second, the fact that the children “televise” their message from “across town” demonstrates how detached they are from their parents. In addition to be physically distant, they are emotionally aloof. Instead of calling and talking to the parents (or starting a dialogue via text message), they impersonally broadcast their declaration. Their parents cannot answer or reply to a televised message.

Even more telling is the fact that they simply announce that they will not be coming home; they do not bother to request or at least negotiate their absence with their parents. Wendy and Peter deign to command their parents to eat without them!

George and Lydia do not seem to share a connection of love or a bond of respect with their children. The parent-child relationship is detached, emotionless, and a bit one-sided. Wendy and Peter control their parents like spoiled, entitled brats.

For example, the parents willingly built the enormous interactive nursery for their kids at great cost:

It was forty feet across by forty feet long and thirty feet high; it had cost half again as much as the rest of the house. “But nothing’s too good for our children,” George had said.

The ungrateful kids throw fits when denied what they want. George recalls to Lydia their reaction to him locking the nursery one time:

You know how difficult Peter is about that. When I punished him a month ago by locking it for even a few hours—the way he lost his temper! And Wendy too. They live for the nursery.

The parent-child relationship has become inverted. It is now a case of the proverbial tail wagging the dog!

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The first point that Ray Bradbury makes in this sentence is that Peter and Wendy have very little interest in family life with their parents. It is easy for them to decide at the last minute to stay at the plastic carnival rather than come home for dinner. They clearly prefer a plastic carnival to their real home life.

The second point that Bradbury makes is that the children have used their mastery of technology to take control of their family's life. They don't ask for permission from their parents to miss dinner to stay late at the plastic carnival. Instead, they use their ability to televise a message home to tell their parents that they won't be in. In a more typical family, it would be the parents who would tell the children what to do, such as to go ahead and eat on their own. However, Peter and Wendy seem perfectly at ease dictating to their parents, and the parents accept the children's decision without insisting that they come home immediately. This dynamic does not seem to be unusual in this family.

All of this lends credence to the idea that Peter and Wendy no longer view their parents as authority figures to whom they feel bonded. It also supports Mr. Hadley's contention that the children have been spoiled.

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