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The Veldt (Tale Blazers) Paperback – September, 1982
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The children love their electronics and think their parents are crazy to want to take that way and be a family again. Their solution to this problem is chilling.
The book is written in an education format, where children write responses and essays to Bradbury's story.
Recommended, especially for teachers and young readers.
When George asks the kids about their African playground, the kids deny that's where they've been and when Wendy, his daughter, quickly runs ahead of George and changes the scenery, he knows they are hiding something.
Realizing that giving the kids everything they've ever wanted probably wasn't such a good idea, he begins to shut things down- including the nursery. But too little- too late, and at the end of the tale, George and Lydia finally realize why the screams coming from the nursery every night sounded so familiar.
Bradbury never fails to strike me with his descriptive wording- even in a short short story such as this:
"The hot straw smell of liongrass, the cool green smell of the hidden water hole, the great rusty smell of animals, the smell of dust like a red paprika in the hot air."
"Like a red paprika..." Hunh. Love that.
I'm also sensing, Bradbury really didn't like modern entertainment and the direction it's heading. He must have felt that eventually it would atrophy the brain and spoil the kiddos.
He was right.
The Veldt was a wonderful story and, albeit short, it carried a strong message. Many strong messages, in fact. It showed readers that the amount of work one has to do is not inversely correlated with how happy they are, and that relying on technology for everything we do can sever bonds that it never even let develop.
The tale begins with the Hadley’s, a happy futuristic family living in a technologically consumed world. Problems arise when Lydia asks George to investigate their kids nursery, a four walled room that can take the kids’ thoughts and transform them into a three dimensional reality. It’s meant to be used to watch over their psychological behavior. At the time the story takes place, the Hadley children have turned the nursery into an African veldt.
Everything goes downhill when the lions in the nursery seemingly attack the Hadley’s, leaving Lydia to believe the nursery has become too real. She asks George to have the family take a break from all the technology in the house, and realizes she hasn’t even bathed the kids or made them breakfast at all herself, since the “ Happylife Home” system did it all for her.
It as at this point that the Hadley kids, Wendy and Peter, are introduced, and immediately the effects of the house become clear. George and Lydia had done so little for their children that they have severed all emotional connection to them, believing the house and everything in it is more important than their parents. This proves deadly as the story progresses further, where even the family psychologist issues a warning to look after the children closely and keep them out of the nursery.
Ray Bradbury’s writings are always filled with extraordinary metaphors and vivid imagery. Just close your eyes and picture, “... here were the lions now, fifteen feet away… so feverishly and startlingly real that you could feel the prickling fur on your hand, and your mouth was stuffed with the dusty upholstery smell of their heated pelts, and the yellow of them was in your eyes like the yellow of an exquisite French tapestry, the yellows of lions and summer grass, and the sound of the matted lion lungs exhaling on the silent noontide, and the smell of meat from the panting, dripping mouths.” Every last word works perfectly with the last to create an imprint in your mind of the scenery in the nursery and the tension in the air.
Of course, most would see no reason to worry. After all, what harm can mere holograms do? All it takes is ten pages and a few homicidal lions to find out, although you may be left with a happier ending without reading it at all. Perhaps you could make your own ending within the nursery, Peter and Wendy definitely enjoyed that themselves. After all, “nothing's too good for our children.”