On the most basic level, “The Veldt” is about a family going through the typical problems that arise in family life. George and Lydia are parents who spoil their children, and then try to discipline them by taking away the toys they originally spoiled them with. In response, Wendy and Peter begin to hate their parents. The difference between the Hadleys and a real family is that the Hadley children’s toys are much more powerful than the toys that children usually play with. Eventually, the children’s hatred ends in a rebellion and their parents’ death. Bradbury’s story is a study in how technology disrupts normal family relations.
George and Lydia want the best for their children. So they purchase the Happylife Home, a home designed to make Peter and Wendy happy and fulfilled. Indeed, it does its job, but it does that job too well. George and Lydia become concerned about their role as parents in the Happylife Home; they feel as if they’re being phased out by their technology. As David McClean says, they have let the Happylife Home become more important to the children than their own parents. In a normal household, parents in this situation might be able to fix their family troubles. But in this case, Peter and Wendy are so obsessed with the nursery that they would rather kill their parents than part with it. Their new reality far surpasses a reality in which their dreams never come true. And the technology is so powerful that George and Lydia can’t compete with it. You can confiscate a video game, but not the nursery: it will find a way to get rid of you.
Perhaps George and Lydia are bad parents. On the other hand, perhaps consumer technology is just too powerful and addictive. Bradbury’s story might as well describe today’s culture, in which children and parents alike watch TV during dinner, text message during conversations, and are constantly distracted by their technology. One would rather be in front of a screen than another human being.
To Bradbury, the power of technology spells the end of family, and the end of meaningful human relations. If everyone has a nursery to create his or her own world, there may no longer be any need to have real conversations, to foster real relationships, with real people, in the shared, real world. In portraying the destruction of the Hadley family, Bradbury is voicing a fear that the consumerist world we are building will result in the destruction of the very idea of family and all of the values—love, respect, loyalty, companionship—that make possible our humanity.
Death of the Family ThemeTracker
Death of the Family Quotes in The Veldt
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
Remarkable how the nursery caught the telepathic emanations of the children’s minds and created life to fill their every desire. The children thought lions, and there were lions. The children thought zebras, and there were zebras. Sun—sun. Giraffes—giraffes. Death and death.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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?”
A moment later they heard screams.
Two screams. Two people screaming from downstairs. And then a roar of lions….
“Those screams—they sound familiar.”
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.
Peter looked at his shoes. He never looked at his father any more, nor at his mother.
“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….”
“I don’t want to do anything but look and listen and smell; what else is there to do?”
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
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.