by Ray Bradbury
Analysis: Writing Style
Metaphors and What's Left Out
If you've read Bradbury or our learning guides about his work, you might know that he likes his metaphors and similes. (Check out the guides to Something Wicked This Way Comes and Fahrenheit 451 for more examples.) In a Bradbury story, one thing is always like another thing. For instance, in "The Veldt," the virtual sun in Africa is "like a hot paw" (66). And the lion's yellow eyes are "like the yellow of an exquisite French tapestry" (29). And… well, there are a lot of them.
These metaphors don't come out and tell us stuff directly. They hint. The sun = hot paw comment, for example, reminds us of the connection between Africa and the lions. And French tapestry-like eyes, well that makes us see the lions as something beautiful and artistic. After all, just like tapestries, these lions are essentially man-made. They are creations of the nursery, which was also made by people. George actually has a little rapturous thought along these lines when he comes into the nursery: "George Hadley was filled with admiration for the mechanical genius who had conceived this room" (28).
So the lions are artistic and beautiful creations. But what George forgets—and what we might forget too—is that lions are also deadly. Whoops. We got distracted by the metaphor and then the lions ate us.
What's Left Out
Bradbury has a hard time being a straight shooter. Sometimes, he simply refuses to give us the scoop directly, and sometimes he even leaves stuff out. If he were writing a paper for English class, he probably wouldn't get a good grade, but since he's a famous writer, we're willing to cut him some slack.
He likes to hint or make us catch up. For instance, check out the opening of the story: we hear two people talking back and forth. Who are they and where are they and when are they? Who knows? We can gather from the first line that one of them is named "George" and we know by the seventh paragraph that the other is his wife and that they are in the kitchen. But that's all we get. Bradbury leaves out a ton. We can't really answer simple questions about what these people look like or where they live or what year it is. But here's the question: why?
By leaving big blanks, Bradbury makes his story more universal. For example, we can all imagine ourselves as George because George has whatever hair we have (or don't have). So while Bradbury's gaps may be frustrating at times (especially if you're trying to picture these people in all their glory), he's leaving things out on purpose. (Plus, the guy was being paid by the word. It's not like he benefits from being succinct.)
Let's take a peek at the biggest gap of all: the end of the story. What happens to the parents? Bradbury leaves that open because, if he were to tell his readers that George and Lydia got eaten by lions, it would change a dreadful story (see "Tone") into a gory horror story. But if they don't get eaten, well then the story probably doesn't seem so bad for the parents. In other words, Bradbury wants us to imagine the parents meeting (oh, we almost wrote "meating"!) a bad end, but he doesn't want to spell it out for us because that would ruin the effect.