The Veldt

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The Happylife Home Symbol Analysis

The Happylife Home Symbol Icon
The Happylife Home symbolizes a new consumerist society in which all of our needs and desires are instantly met, and all of our daily tasks become automated. It simultaneously frees the Hadleys to do whatever they want, and renders them passive beings, dependent on its technology and unsure of what to do now that they don’t have to do anything. In some ways, the Happylife Home becomes even more human than the humans that live within it, because it performs all of the tasks that make us human. It therefore represents the loss of independence and a sense of purpose in life, and signals our misconception of what a happy life means.

The Happylife Home Quotes in The Veldt

The The Veldt quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Happylife Home. 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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“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.

“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?”
“It would be fun for a change, don’t you think?”
“No, it would be horrid….”

Related Characters: George Hadley (speaker), Peter Hadley (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Happylife Home
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

When George tells Peter that they're considering turning off their house for only "about a month," Peter can't imagine life without the Happylife Home doing everything for them. Any sort of independence-- tying his shoes, bathing, and so on-- is almost impossible for Peter to imagine.

Bradbury continues to use lofty, almost British-sounding words in Peter and Wendy's dialogue. Peter uses the words "dreadful" and "horrid," in a caricature of what a kid's tantrum might really sound like. Bradbury often uses misplaced words in ways like this to make his dialogue strange and comic.

Once again, George fails to have any influence on what his children want to do. He tries to make the situation sound fun, but Peter wants to hear none of it. And Bradbury's fictional technologies continue to show up in the story, with the "shoe tier" as an amusing example.

“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.

The house was full of dead bodies, it seemed. It felt like a mechanical cemetery. So silent. None of the humming energy of machines waiting to function at the tap of a button.

Related Symbols: The Happylife Home
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

In the brief period when the Hadleys have turned the house off, it seems strange to them that their lives aren’t accompanied by the humming of technology. This is a provocative passage from Bradbury, with the house “full of dead bodies.” Given that it seems like a “mechanical cemetery,” the dead bodies might be all the disabled machines. There is a void now that the machines are turned off, but once they are back on it will be a different type of dead bodies somewhere in the house.

The other aspect of these machines is their persistent state of “waiting to function” for the user. The machines never have any downtime, or decide they’d rather not fulfill their duty, and so they offer instant gratification to the Hadley family. To have everything at the touch of a button, and then to have none of it, would be jarring indeed. Yet the reader gets the sense that, if the Hadleys are able to make it through this first stretch of life without constant technological help, they might make it as a family. Tragically, this won’t be the case.

“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.

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The Happylife Home Symbol Timeline in The Veldt

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Happylife Home 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
...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 clothes them, feeds them, and... (full context)
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
The parents reach the nursery, the most expensive and sophisticated feature of the Happylife Home . Before their eyes, the blank walls of the nursery transform into a three-dimensional African... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
...to do, and is therefore thinking too much. She suggests that they shut off the Happylife Home and take a vacation. She expresses the desire to do routine human tasks that the... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
...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 idea of tying his own shoes... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
...from a “Santa Claus” into a “Scrooge.” First he spoiled the children by purchasing the Happylife Home ; then he allowed them to become dependent on it. Now, he is functionally taking... (full context)
Consumer Culture and Technology Theme Icon
“Too Real” Reality Theme Icon
Death of the Family Theme Icon
...and proceeds to go around the house turning off the other automated elements of the Happylife Home . The house becomes as silent as a cemetery. Peter, desperate, tells George that he... (full context)