Last Updated on October 19, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 820
“Walls, Lydia, remember; crystal walls, that’s all they are. Oh, they look real, I must admit—Africa in your parlor—but it’s all dimensional, superreactionary, supersensitive color film and mental tape film behind glass screens. It’s all odorophonics and sonics, Lydia. Here’s my handkerchief.”
“I’m afraid.” She came to him and put her body against him and cried steadily. “Did you see? Did you feel? It’s too real.”
George says these lines to Lydia to comfort her after she rushes out of the nursery, fearing that the virtual lions are real. George’s statement shows that he wishes to reassure Lydia that her fears are imaginary. He uses big words like “superreactionary” and “odorophonics” to show that he is an authority on the subject of the nursery. Still, his tone is pompous and insensitive. Instead of reassuring Lydia, George ends up undermining her valid concerns about the nursery. As the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that Lydia’s fears are all too real; the nursery is in fact more than just “crystal walls” and “color film.” George’s statement establishes early on that he can be oblivious and unobservant. Perhaps George’s overdependence on machines and technology has dulled his critical-thinking faculties.
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“Maybe I don’t have enough to do. Maybe I have time to think too much. Why don’t we shut the whole house off for a few days and take a vacation?”
“You mean you want to fry my eggs for me?”
“Yes.” She nodded. . . .
“But I thought that’s why we bought the house, so we wouldn’t have to do anything.”
“That’s just it. I feel like I don’t belong here. The house is wife and mother now, and nursemaid. Can I compete with an African veldt? Can I give a bath and scrub the children as efficiently or quickly as the automatic scrub bath can? I cannot.”
Lydia tells George that perhaps the best solution to the children’s dependence on the nursery is for the family to unplug from technology. After fearing the lions in the nursery are too real, Lydia doesn’t want to take any chances. She perceptively guesses that her children’s behavioral issues, the realistic lions, and the family’s lifestyle are all part of the same problem. She, George, and the children have so little productive work to do that they have turned either passive or, in case of the children, destructive. Lydia wants to do the very chores that George thinks unnecessary, because they affirm her humanity. By cutting down her own reliance on the house, Lydia wants to set the children a good example. George’s response shows he is slower to recognize the truth than his wife.
He chewed tastelessly on the meat that the table had cut for him. Death thoughts. They were awfully young, Wendy and Peter, for death thoughts. Or, no, you were never too young, really. Long before you knew what death was you were wishing it on someone else.
George reflects on the nursery while eating dinner and waiting for Peter and Wendy to return from the carnival. The nursery is programmed to sense and reflect the children’s thoughts and feelings. Thus, the veldt, with its bloodthirsty lions, shows that the children are increasingly obsessed with violence and cruelty. George astutely notes that the children are not too young to have such thoughts. In truth, young children can have vindictive and intense feelings as much as anyone else. Unlike adults, children do not understand the reality of death, which may seem like a story or a simulation to them. The irony is that although George is perceptive about human nature in this regard, he has been unable to see that the nursery is letting his children dwell in their destructive thoughts. The problem thus is not the children’s thoughts and dissatisfactions but the fact that they have the means to keep replaying them, making them too real. Further, the children have no distractions from these destructive thoughts, since their lives have very little work and creative activities.
“Matter of fact, we’re thinking of turning the whole house off for about a month. Live sort of a carefree one-for-all existence.”
“That sounds dreadful! Would I have to tie my own shoes instead of letting the shoe tier do it? And brush my own teeth and comb my hair and give myself a bath?”
When George tells Peter that he and Lydia are considering unplugging the house, Peter reacts in a horrified fashion. His protest that he will have to now tie his own shoes may seem unreasonable, but it actually shows how little his parents have prepared him for the change they are suggesting. Peter and Wendy have been brought up to believe even the most basic tasks can be outsourced, so giving up their luxuries is unthinkable for them.