The Veldt

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Lydia Hadley Character Analysis

Lydia is George’s wife. She is the first to perceive the negative effects of the Happylife Home, and wishes she once again had a “purpose”, which she feels the fully-automated house has stolen from her. She is also genuinely frightened by the realistic power of the nursery. While she is the one who encourages George to take definitive action and shut off the Happylife Home, she also has a soft spot for her children that results in her and her husband’s ultimate demise.

Lydia Hadley Quotes in The Veldt

The The Veldt quotes below are all either spoken by Lydia Hadley or refer to Lydia Hadley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Veldt published in 2012.
The Veldt Quotes

They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home, which had cost them thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them.

Related Characters: George Hadley, Lydia Hadley, Wendy Hadley, Peter Hadley
Related Symbols: The Happylife Home
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Having convinced her husband George to go check their nursery, Lydia Hadley walks with him through their house. Bradbury calls it the Happylife Home, in a sarcastic nod to the false happiness that the home will bring them. In telling us how much the home costs “installed,” Bradbury suggests the home is primarily a purchasable, manufactured product—it is standardized, came as one complete unit, and can be bought by anyone with the money to afford it. If this home does make the family happy, it won't be a unique or hard-won happiness. 

As we quickly find out, these characters are helpless, relying on their home to do just about everything for them. Bradbury lists out all the things that the Happylife Home can do for them, like a list of "features" in a catalog. Later in the story, George has a hard time even imagining that they might cook for themselves or live without the many luxuries of their Happylife Home. Bradbury knows that this sort of technology can be very tempting, as we imagine ourselves being cooked for and cared for by a smart home. But their Happylife Home lures the Hadley family into a false sense of happiness, makes them unable to do anything for themselves, and ultimately spells the end of George and Lydia.

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They stood on the thatched floor of the nursery. 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.

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley, Wendy Hadley, Peter Hadley
Related Symbols: The “Nursery”
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Once again, the details Bradbury gives on the home remind us of the kind we might find in a catalog. Readers learn of its “thatched floor” and find out the exact dimensions of the nursery. These details help us imagine the nursery (in which most of the story will take place) but also echo the consumerism at the center of Bradbury’s story. It is an enormous room: sixteen hundred square feet of floor space, and thirty-foot-high ceilings. The nursery alone is bigger than many small homes, and its ceilings are more than three times as high as the standard nine-foot ceiling. 

We also learn that the room cost half as much as the rest of the house. George anticipates that an observer might find the nursery a little excessive, hence his suggestion that “nothing’s too good for our kids.” Throughout this story, Bradbury plays with the central irony of George and Lydia’s relationship to their children: the very things that they think make them good parents end up destroying their family. George is proud that he’s able to provide such an expensive nursery for his children, thinking it will be good for them. But as the story progresses, we find out that the nursery is very bad for all of them. George’s statement suggests his stubborn wish to be a good father. But by spoiling his children with this fancy nursery, he ends up losing control over the family.

“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.”

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley (speaker)
Related Symbols: The “Nursery”
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

Here George offers his unconvincing reassurance to Lydia, and it seems like he is also trying to convince himself not to be afraid of the veldt. He knows Lydia is correct when she says the Africa in their parlor is “too real.” Through these characters, Bradbury is exploring the limit of how far we ought to take our technology. Like many works of science fiction before and after it, “The Veldt” is concerned with the boundary between reality and illusion. When the lines start to blur, bad things tend to happen.

This interaction between the Hadley parents is melodramatic, meaning there’s something overdone about elements like George offering Lydia his handkerchief. Meanwhile, Bradbury makes up a whole bunch of technological terms that reflect his sense of humor. He mixes the made-up terms like “mental tape film” and “odorophonics” with real ones like “color film” to make them seem like real features of the nursery. We might find “odorophonics” funny because it blends smell (odor) and sound (phonics) into a nonsensical term. In offering his explanation of the nursery, George exposes himself as an unaware consumer. He says meaningless things like “it’s all dimensional, superreactionary, supersensitive” and we learn that he doesn’t really have a sense how the nursery works at all.

“You know how difficult Peter is about that. When I punished him a month ago by locking the nursery for even a few hours—the tantrum he threw! And Wendy too. They live for the nursery.”

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley, Wendy Hadley, Peter Hadley
Related Symbols: The “Nursery”
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

Upon hearing Lydia’s suggestion that he shut off the nursery for a while and give their kids a break from it, George is terrified of how Peter and Wendy might react. Before the literal death of their family at the end of the story comes the death of their family structure: George and Lydia have lost all control over their two children. Always back-and-forth in their reactions to the nursery, Lydia and George seem more like children than parents.

They cannot make a decision that might save their family without great fear at how Peter and Wendy will respond. Because the nursery seems more real than anything else, the kids have become addicted to it. As George says: "They live for the nursery." George is helpless to stop his children’s addiction to the African veldt. 

One other interesting thing: we might remember the names Peter and Wendy from J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan stories. Bradbury might have chosen these names to remind us of the way Barrie's Peter and Wendy escape from reality by going to Neverland. In Bradbury's story, the nursery is their Neverland—but it's more sinister the "realer" it becomes.

“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.”

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley (speaker), Wendy Hadley, Peter Hadley
Related Symbols: The Happylife Home
Page Number: 12-13
Explanation and Analysis:

Lydia worries that her nervousness might come from having too much time to think, a common fear in modern society. Bradbury puts an ironic spin on this, because it doesn’t seem like either Lydia or George have been doing much thinking at any point in the story. Still, she might be onto something in suggesting that they don’t have enough to do. When the house does everything for them, what’s left to focus on?

The Hadleys are so deeply immersed in their technological trap that they can’t imagine people cooking for themselves. But the fact that George even brings up the fried eggs suggests that he remembers a time when people— and not their houses— cooked breakfast.

As Lydia explains, the house has essentially replaced her (assuming that she previously took on the role of domestic housewife). She can’t keep up with the “too real” images displayed for her children in the nursery, and her role as a caretaker has been eliminated. Perhaps, as Bradbury suggests, the roles of each family member in supporting the family as a whole are a key part of the family’s survival. Still, George resists the idea that they might shut off the house and go away—and his reluctance seems to be because of the money he spent on it. They "bought" the house and nursery, so he doesn't want to waste it, even if it's making the family fall apart.

How many times in the last year had he opened this door and found Wonderland, Alice, the Mock Turtle, or Aladdin and his Magical Lamp, …all the delightful contraptions of a make-believe world…. But now, this yellow hot Africa, this bake oven with murder in the heat. Perhaps Lydia was right. Perhaps they needed a little vacation from the fantasy which was growing a bit too real for ten-year-old children.

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley, Wendy Hadley, Peter Hadley
Related Symbols: The “Nursery”
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

By referencing some of the most widely known children’s stories in Western culture, Bradbury shows that Peter and Wendy’s time in the nursery started out innocently. They imagined things from their favorite stories and saw them on the walls around them.

But throughout this story there is something that bothers George and Lydia about the Africa scenes playing on the walls of their nursery. It seems like there is nothing more “real” than the veldt, where animals eat other animals in front of Peter and Wendy. Why does this bother George and Lydia so much? They fear that their kids are no longer interested in the make-believe of children’s stories and instead have begun to fixate on violent fantasies of the African veldt. Yet, with all their worries about what is “natural” or not for children, George and Lydia forget that there is, in some ways, nothing more "natural" than animals and their instinctual ways of life.

George Hadley stood on the African grassland alone. The lions looked up from their feeding, watching him. The only flaw to the illusion was the open door through which he could see his wife, far down the dark hall, like a framed picture, eating her dinner abstractedly.

Related Characters: George Hadley, Lydia Hadley
Related Symbols: The Veldt
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

George goes into the nursery again, this time alone, to see what his kids might be encountering inside. He seems to be looking for flaws in the illusion, signs that the veldt is not real, but he can only find one. The lions are aware of George, and based on the technological explanations Bradbury has given us, it must be George’s imagination that makes them so. Amidst all his anxiety about his children and their nursery, George might be having some “death thoughts” too, projected onto the wall when the feeding lions look at him.

He sees Lydia through the door, which he has made sure to leave open, eating “abstractedly.” This means Lydia is preoccupied, and we have further evidence that their life in the Happylife Home is far from happy. Evidence like this throughout this story suggests that the two parents are extremely worried about their children, who in turn are addicted to the nursery and ungrateful toward their parents. In the Happylife Home, the Hadley family is quickly falling apart.

“Hello, Mom. Hello, Dad.”
The Hadleys turned. Wendy and Peter were coming in the front door, cheeks like peppermint candy, eyes like bright blue agate marbles, a smell of ozone on their jumpers from their trip in the helicopter.
“You’re just in time for supper, said both parents.
“We’re full of strawberry ice cream and hot dogs,” said the children, holding hands. “But we’ll sit and watch.”

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley (speaker), Wendy Hadley (speaker), Peter Hadley (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

Wendy and Peter enter the house speaking in unison, which gives them a kind of creepy or even robotic presence. They're also holding hands, which might be a bit strange given the other things we've learned about them. Peter and Wendy seem to have teamed up against their parents. It's also strange that they intend to watch their parents eat.

Bradbury's fantasy-world description of the kids suggests how spoiled they are, and how they treat all of life as a kind of entertainment for them to watch. They're addicted to their thrilling lifestyle, signaled by the fact that they've just gotten out of a helicopter.

They don't need their parents' dinner because they're full of what seems like carnival food. This furthers the sense that they don't need their parents, especially in traditional ways like relying on them to make food or bathe them. 

“I don’t know anything,” he said, “except that I’m beginning to be sorry we bought that room for the children. If children are neurotic at all, a room like that—”
“It’s supposed to help them work off their neuroses in a healthful way.”
“I’m starting to wonder.” He stared at the ceiling.
“We’ve given the children everything they ever wanted. Is this our reward—secrecy, disobedience?”

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley (speaker), Wendy Hadley, Peter Hadley
Related Symbols: The “Nursery”
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

The Hadley parents are surprised to find that their efforts to improve their children's lives with their technologically advanced nursery have backfired, leaving their kids unable to do anything but sit in the nursery and dream up images of the dangerous veldt.

George suggests that it's Peter and Wendy's neuroses--their anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues--that makes the nursery a bad match for their personalities. Yet, as Lydia says, the nursery was meant to help them "work off" their worries. The nursery, this symbol for a hands-off form of parenting, has failed to fulfill its purpose and instead has turned Peter and Wendy against their parents.

A moment later they heard screams.
Two screams. Two people screaming from downstairs. And then a roar of lions….
“Those screams—they sound familiar.”
“Do they?”
“Yes, awfully.”
And although their beds tried very hard, the two adults couldn’t be rocked to sleep for another hour. A smell of cats was in the night air.

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley (speaker)
Related Symbols: The “Nursery”
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Bradbury lays on the suspense. Lydia says the screams sound familiar, but doesn't say who they might sound like. The reader doesn't find out until the end of the story, but it's an ominous suggestion. (It's later revealed that the screams are coming from an imagined version of George and Lydia--the children are fantasizing about their parents being killed.) The two kids have broken into the nursery while George and Lydia try to fall asleep, further suggesting that the parents have little control over what their kids do.

Like at other points in the story, Bradbury uses personification to make parts of the Happylife Home seem like members of the family. Here, the bed "tried very hard" to rock George and Lydia to sleep. This is what we might expect the parents to do for Peter and Wendy. And given how distressing their situation is, an hour is not a terribly long wait to fall asleep. The Hadleys have grown used to a very easy lifestyle, so any relatively normal difficulty becomes a big one.

The "smell of cats" tells us that the nursery's "odorophonics" are working well to create the illusion of lions in the nursery. The boundary between reality and illusion continues to blur, and it becomes more and more clear that the lions in the nursery might actually be dangerous.

Peter looked at his shoes. He never looked at his father any more, nor at his mother.

Related Characters: George Hadley, Lydia Hadley, Peter Hadley
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Bradbury uses a typical symbol of disengagement from a social situation, gazing at one's shoes, to show that Peter is unable--or at least unwilling--to engage with his parents. That he "never looked" at his mother or father suggests how distant he has grown from them.

Whether Peter is guilty, angry, worried, or simply not interested in talking to George is not clear. But it is should be fairly shocking for George and Lydia to learn that their child cannot even look at them. This is one of many cues from their children that George and Lydia fail (or refuse) to really understand.

Bradbury picks up on a trope of the child distractedly interacting with his parents but turns it into something more sinister, a sign that Peter is drifting further and further from his parents, and towards something dark and dangerous. 

“You’ve let this room and this house replace you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their mother and father, far more important than their real parents. And now you come along and want to shut it off. No wonder there’s hatred there. You can feel it coming out of the sky. Feel that sun. George, you’ll have to change your life. Like too many others, you’ve built it around creature comforts. Why, you’d starve tomorrow if something went wrong in your kitchen. You wouldn’t know how to tap an egg. Nevertheless, turn everything off. Start new.”

Related Characters: David McClean (speaker), George Hadley, Lydia Hadley, Wendy Hadley, Peter Hadley
Related Symbols: The Happylife Home, The “Nursery”, The Veldt
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:

The psychologist delivers his final verdict about the Hadley family. As discussed above, the family's death is preceded by the fact that Peter and Wendy no longer need their parents. Dr. McClean blames George and Lydia for “letting” their kids find a replacement for them in the form of their nursery. Then, even worse, the parents try to take away the nursery. This is a pretty harsh judgment for a psychologist, who might normally spend some time exploring the ambiguity of their situation--but McClean isn't speaking as the Hadleys' doctor, he's speaking as their concerned friend.

Dr. McClean says they can feel the hatred from the Hadley children beaming down from the sun and the sky in the veldt. The emotional turmoil in this family is made real in the nursery, which functions as a metaphor for their inability to come together physically or emotionally. The psychologist goes on to recommend that they get rid of the “creature comforts” supplied by their Happylife Home and learn to take care of themselves again. He mentions an egg, just as George does when Lydia suggests turning off the home earlier in the story.

Even though he knows it will make Peter and Wendy hate their parents, Dr. McClean recommends that they turn the whole house off and start a new life. Of course, as we soon find out, it’s too late for these interventions. 

“Lydia, it’s off, and it stays off. And the whole damn house dies as of here and now. The more I see of the mess we’ve put ourselves in, the more it sickens me. We’ve been contemplating our mechanical, electronic navels for too long. My God, how we need a breath of honest air!”

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Happylife Home, The “Nursery”
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

George finally lays down the law and decides that they’ll have to turn off the Happylife Home. His resolve will last only a few paragraphs, until Peter manipulates his father into letting them use the nursery one more time. Bradbury continues to hammer home the ineffectiveness of George and Lydia in deciding how their family will function. Suddenly, convinced by his psychologist friend to see the house and nursery as bad things, George is “sickened by them.” But it’ll be too little, too late.

Bradbury uses another trope, navel-gazing, which is used to suggest that someone is spending too long thinking about themselves. But he puts his usual humorous twist on the expression, using the more complex word “contemplating,” as if staring at one’s own belly button were a philosophical act. George calls them “mechanical, electronic navels,” suggesting that his family has been infected in some way by all the technology around them. They have become one with all the mechanical, electronic stuff they use to get by every day. This is contrasted with the “honest air” they might breathe outside their Happylife Home, the cave in which they’ve lived out so much of their lives.

“I wish you were dead!”
“We were, for a long while. Now we’re going to really start living. Instead of being handled and massaged, we’re going to live.”

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Peter Hadley (speaker), Lydia Hadley, Wendy Hadley
Related Symbols: The Happylife Home
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

This is George's breakthrough moment, when he'll finally set the family back on course, or so we're meant to think. George's heroic pronouncement is prompted by Peter's disturbing wish. Of course, as foreshadowed throughout the story, George’s brand of heroism will crumble easily under pressure from his son. He pronounces triumphantly that now, without the Happylife Home in their way, the Hadleys will “really start living.” It’s an intriguing idea, and Bradbury picks up on the way that we all sometimes make earnest commitments only to forget them only a few hours later.

The evil that George mentions here, “being handled and massaged,” relates more directly to the Happylife Home than to the nursery itself. Even though the nursery seems like the most addictive and the most dangerous element of their home, the focus of George’s commitment to a new life is his decision to no longer be taken care of by the home. His failure to adequately explain to Peter that it’s the nursery that is most pressingly in need of being turned off, or why the nursery might be harmful for them in the first place, is another missed chance for him to connect with Peter and save the family from its rapidly approaching destruction.

He stared at the two children seated in the center of the open glade eating a little picnic lunch. Beyond them was the water hole and the yellow veldtland; above was the hot sun. He began to perspire. “Where are your mother and father?”
The children looked up and smiled. “Oh, they’ll be here directly.”…
A shadow flickered over Mr. McClean’s hot face. Many shadows flickered. The vultures were dropping down the blazing sky.
“A cup of tea?” asked Wendy in the silence.

Related Characters: Wendy Hadley (speaker), Peter Hadley (speaker), David McClean (speaker), George Hadley, Lydia Hadley
Related Symbols: The Veldt
Page Number: 26-27
Explanation and Analysis:

There are few things more traditionally “innocent” than a brother and sister eating “a little picnic lunch” together, but we come to learn that Peter and Wendy’s picnic takes place next to a very brutal scene. In the climax of Bradbury’s story, it seems that the boundary between the real world and the nursery has been erased completely. George and Hadley have been sucked into the veldt and eaten by the lions, while their children eat a picnic nearby. Peter and Wendy are seemingly just mildly entertained by the violence they're witnessing, and completely uncaring regarding their parents' fate--this family was "dead" long before George and Lydia are literally killed.

Dr. McClean, who comes across Peter and Wendy after walking into the nursery, is hit by the “hot sun” that he earlier claims signifies the children’s hatred toward their parents. He seems panicked, urging the children to go, and Bradbury suggests that McClean might be about to disappear too.

The strange formality of Peter and Wendy’s speech, and their bizarre tendency to speak and act in unison, reemerge here. Instead of saying “they’ll be right back,” the two children respond: “Oh, they’ll be here directly.” In the very last sentence of the story, Wendy offers the psychologist a cup of tea. They continue to manipulate adults with a false innocence and a false politeness, emphasizing the horror inherent in human nature--if children can act like this, then nothing is truly innocent.

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Lydia Hadley Character Timeline in The Veldt

The timeline below shows where the character Lydia Hadley appears in The Veldt. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Veldt
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
The story opens during a conversation between the Hadley parents, George and Lydia, in their thirty thousand-dollar Happylife Home. The futuristic Happylife Home fulfills their every need: it... (full context)
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
...nursery, saying that everything looks normal but that it is “a little too real,” but Lydia tells him to wait. They observe more details in the veldt: the smell of grass,... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
...he muses, “what fun for everyone.” The lions stop fifteen feet away from George and Lydia, “feverishly and startlingly real,” and then charge at the couple. George and Lydia run out... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
George and Lydia can’t sleep. They agree that Wendy changed the nursery from a veldt to a forest... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
...and asks George not to turn off the nursery. When George reveals that he and Lydia are considering turning the Happylife Home off for a month, Peter becomes upset at the... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
George and Lydia invite their friend, psychologist David McClean, to examine the nursery. David observes that the veldt... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
...Wendy and Peter become extremely upset and throw a fit. Upset at her children’s crying, Lydia begs George to turn the nursery back on for a little longer. George refuses, and... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
Lydia and the children go to the nursery while George gets dressed. Lydia also comes to... (full context)
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
...feeling the heat of the sun, starts sweating. He asks the children where George and Lydia are, and the children reply that they’ll be coming soon. In the distance, David sees... (full context)