His wife paused in the middle of the kitchen and watched the stove busy humming to itself, making supper for four. (7)
Bradbury doesn't like to waste time, so by paragraph seven, we see Lydia's problem: she's a wife and she's not making dinner because she has a gadget to do the work. And what's a wife without cooking? (In the 1950s, maybe not much; today, maybe a scientist.)
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. (10)
All right already, we get the idea: the house was expensive. Well, the narrator only mentions this cost once (and later, mentions the cost of the nursery), but it does make us think that the problem here might be related to consumerism. Plus, this quote reminds us of Quote #9 under our theme of Dissatisfaction. What if they bought the technology they wanted, rather than the technology that was new and expensive?
"But I thought that's why we bought this house, so we wouldn't have to do anything?" (55)
In this story, technology is all about convenience, right? This is George talking, but notice that later in the story… well, we won't spoil the surprise, just click on over to Quote #6.
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. (66)
Like all good virtual reality rooms, the nursery responds to "every desire." Seriously, when will people learn to put safety guards on their virtual reality rooms? Although here's a semi-serious question: what would this story be like if the room had some sort of "child safety lock," like a car door has? Would genius Peter find some way around it?
And although their beds tried very hard, the two adults couldn't be rocked to sleep for another hour. (150)
Check out all the issues Bradbury packs into this one line: a) the beds are almost made into characters in the way that they "tried" to do something; b) they have multiple beds because sex wasn't invented until the 1970s; c) the "adults" are being treated like children or babies—that's who we rock to bed; d) the parents are super nervous. In a word, this quote is dense.
"I don't want to do anything but look and listen and smell; what else is there to do?" (167)
Peter makes the same argument that his dad made in Quote #3: technology is useful because it can make us into fat slobs who don't do anything. (Wall-E anyone?) Except by this time, George is anti-technology, and his son has turned the tables. Bradbury emphasizes this by making Peter say almost exactly the same thing George said, except this time it reads as creepy rather than… not creepy.
"One of the original uses of these nurseries was so that we could study the patterns left on the walls by the child's mind, study at our leisure, and help the child." (195)
David McClean is our walk-on expert and here he is, walk-on experting. It's funny to us that this consumer toy actually started out as a medical tool. So maybe the Hadley family would be okay if the nursery had remained a medical gadget? Maybe it's like a scalpel: useful for a doctor, but not good for a ten-year old.
"You can't do that to the nursery, you can't!'' (223)
Notice that Peter says "to the nursery" rather than "with," which kind of makes the nursery sound like a person. (You do actions with objects, but to people.) Do you think Peter personifies the nursery here? Are we just being nitpicky?
"Why, you'd starve tomorrow if something went wrong in your kitchen. You wouldn't know how to tap an egg." (203)
Dr. McClean tells George that, just like a baby, George would starve if he didn't have something (not someone) taking care of him. Of course, this makes sense because Dr. McClean's doctoral degree is in telling people how they're messed up. Notice that Bradbury uses some regular cooking issue—cooking eggs—rather than something futuristic like rehydrating a pizza.
"We've been contemplating our mechanical, electronic navels for too long. My God, how we need a breath of honest air!" (229)
In "The Veldt," technology is associated with people not doing anything. So, as George argues here, technology is almost the opposite of real life, since real life is about doing things. ("Contemplating your navel" is a phrase only dads use to describe doing nothing.)
"But nothing's too good for our children," George had said. (12)
Ah, the problem of being a good parent: George wants to make his kids happy and, of course, that means giving them stuff. Good stuff. It's fun to imagine George giving the kids everything they ask for at this stage in "The Veldt": "you want a nuclear bomb, Peter—only the best bomb for you!" That would be a much shorter story, but basically the same.
"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!" (45)
Only kids and Senators can really throw tantrums correctly. (Peter is not yet a Senator). But even though Peter is still a tantrum-throwing kid, he's also totally in charge here.
At dinner they ate alone, for Wendy and Peter were at a special plastic carnival across town and had televised home to say they'd be late, to go ahead eating. So George Hadley, bemused, sat watching the dining-room table produce warm dishes of food from its mechanical interior. (63)
If you're not sure what to write a paper about, you might want to re-read this quote: the kids use technology to break up the family dinner and to give orders to their parents. Dad isn't happy, and he's not in charge. And at the center of it all, we have the house making the family dinner. This is Exhibit A in the argument that technology messes up family roles. (Exhibit B is when the kids use the nursery to kill the parents. Actually, maybe that should be Exhibit A.)
"Run see and come tell."
"Wendy, come back here!" said George Hadley, but she was gone. (106-8)
Bradbury loves putting lines together to contrast them. So here, Wendy obeys her brother's command but not her dad's. This is not what you would expect in a healthy family.
"We've never lifted a hand. They're insufferable—let's admit it. They come and go when they like; they treat us as if we were offspring." (136)
Bradbury helps us by having George tell us the theme here: the family roles are reversed, and the parents are treated like children. But what's with that opening line? Is George recommending hitting or spanking his children? Note to parents: this is not a good guide for how to discipline your kids.
Peter looked at his shoes. He never looked at his father any more, nor at his mother. (153)
Things are getting worse with the Hadley family, as Bradbury tells us with that "any more." This behavior is new, as Peter gets less friendly with his parents. Or, maybe, Peter just got some boss new shoes. That would be the Sex and the City/"The Veldt" mashup. And that would be awesome.
"I don't think you'd better consider it any more, Father." (171)
Check out how cold Peter is while he delivers this threat. He's not throwing a tantrum (as discussed in Quote #2). He's like a little mob-boss: "Oh, this is a nice family, it'd be a shame if something happened to it." Shiver.
"Can't say I did; the usual violences, a tendency toward a slight paranoia here or there, usual in children because they feel persecuted by parents constantly, but, oh, really nothing." (180)
That "oh, really nothing" kills us. Here David McClean tells us how kids normally feel, which is violent and paranoid—but that's "oh, really nothing." It's nice to know that it's okay that kids aren't all cute smiles and spice. Kids can be mean and they can still turn out to be okay adults. (But still, that doesn't mean you should be a jerk, kiddos.)
"I sensed only that you had spoiled your children more than most. And now you're letting them down in some way." (197)
This is the real problem for George Hadley: he spoiled his kids and then he stopped spoiling them. We don't want to blame George here (okay, maybe we do), but as we learned from the Dog Whisperer, it's important to be consistent. Would this story have a happy ending if George just continued to spoil his kids? Probably… not.
"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 in their lives than their real parents." (203)
David McClean gives the expert view on this situation: your family is messed up (he says to George Hadley) because you've let technology take over and now you have no job. We sure are lucky to have a psychologist here to explain everything to us so clearly. That's one bit of tech Bradbury seems to like: the know-it-all.
"Maybe I don't have enough to do. Maybe I have time to think too much." (48)
If only Lydia had something to do, like write a novel or paint or… Seriously, it's almost as if the Hadleys live before hobbies were invented. If you were to write this story today, Lydia could be making YouTube videos and writing a blog. Problem solved.
"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?" (56)
If you're used to 1950s science fiction where robots threaten to kill people, this story can seem boring at first. There's no danger, right? It's just people feeling dissatisfied. But maybe Bradbury wants us to slowly ramp up, from "dissatisfied with role in life" to "eaten by virtual lions" (which is the natural end of all dissatisfaction).
"You look as if you didn't know what to do with yourself in this house, either. You smoke a little more every morning and drink a little more every afternoon and need a little more sedative every night." (58)
See, the 1950s isn't that different from the 2010s: unhappy people take drugs to deal with their unhappiness. It's funny that Lydia has to tell us this about George because he's too obtuse to even realize his own feelings. And note, too, that Lydia blames all their unhappiness on the house.
He paused and tried to feel into himself to see what was really there. (59)
See what we mean—George has no idea about his feelings. In fact, we never really hear "what was really there," so we don't know what George really feels. If only there were something like a virtual reality room that could express his innermost emotions…
"It's supposed to help them work off their neuroses in a healthful way." (133)
Oh, so there is a virtual reality room that's supposed to help people express their feelings. It's possible this story would have a much different ending if George had used the nursery; he might have had a better shot at figuring things out with this toy before it was too late. (And that's why we play with Legos still—for our mental health.)
"No wonder there's hatred here." (203)
Kids are never into the things their parents are into. So, George and Hadley are dissatisfied, but their kids are just haters. It's rather easy to imagine them cyber bullying their parents. (Though we suppose using virtual lions to kill their parents is the most extreme form of cyber bullying there is.)
"George, you'll have to change your life. Like too many others, you've built it around creature comforts." (203)
Does it seem like David McClean is saying that "creature comforts" are the opposite of real satisfaction? We make fun of this story some, but we'll be honest, sometimes we like Facebook best when we've really had to hunt for a Wi-Fi connection. Sometimes we're satisfied by struggling.
"Now we're going to really start living. Instead of being handled and massaged, we're going to live." (235)
Does George want to have no massages? We don't like when one person says that no one should get massages. Our motto has always been "Massages for everyone." But at least Bradbury makes clear to us here that George totally agrees with David (in Quote #7). It's a moment of hope in an otherwise dreadful story.
"What prompted us to buy a nightmare?"
"Pride, money, foolishness." (245-6)
After World War II, Americans had more money to buy things, so consumerism became bigger and more public. So, if your neighbor bought a new car, you might want to buy a new car just to keep up with the Joneses. That's part of why "pride" is a reason here. In other words, this is classic 1950s dissatisfaction. They buy things because they think they're supposed to, but of course those things don't do much when it comes to making these folks happy. (Things are totally different today, right? That's why we all wear sensible, off-brand clothes and no one judges anyone else by what they have.)
He stared at the two children seated in the center of the open glade eating a little picnic lunch. (264)
Finally! A scene of total satisfaction. Picnics are really the best thing in the world. The fact that it's a "little" picnic just makes it that much more adorable. Too bad these children had to kill their parents to get this satisfaction. (Although, for a picnic, we'd do almost anything, too.)
The walls were blank and two-dimensional. Now, as George and Lydia Hadley stood in the center of the room, the walls began to purr and recede into crystalline distance, it seemed, and presently an African veldt appeared, in three dimensions, on all sides, in color reproduced to the final pebble and bit of straw. (13)
That first sentence is real short and easy. But notice that the second sentence becomes complex and long when Bradbury starts describing the weirdness (and realness) of virtual reality. Too bad poor Ray didn't have the phrase " virtual reality" to describe this.
Now the hidden odorophonics were beginning to blow a wind of odor at the two people in the middle of the baked veldtland. (17)
"Odorophonics" is one of Bradbury's made-up phrases, like "mental tape" (37). Another science fiction author would've spent a lot of time talking about how the nursery works. But Bradbury mostly pays attention to the different versions of reality, not the tech behind it. Also, judging by the number of times the word "odor" appears here, he really wants us to smell this place. You might have a nightmare about the veldt, but from this story we get the idea that Bradbury probably has nightmares about colds and stuffed-up noses.
Oh, occasionally they frightened you with their clinical accuracy, they startled you, gave you a twinge, but most of the time what fun for everyone, not only your own son and daughter, but for yourself when you felt like a quick jaunt to a foreign land, a quick change of scenery. Well, here it was! (28)
See? The nursery is fun for the whole family! And so affordable! It almost sounds like this story wants us to buy one, like the narrator will tell us what free shammies he'll throw in. But here's a serious question: if this is fun for the whole family, why do only the kids use this room to get to a new reality? Why can't the parents go on vacation to Boca Raton?
And here were the lions now, fifteen feet away, so real, 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. (29)
Check out how Bradbury slips us into the scene here. This may be George's point of view—he's the one who sees that the lions are "here"—but Bradbury wants to make us really feel the scene, too. Do you ever get the impression that Bradbury wants a virtual reality room for himself? Who can blame him, since it's fun for the whole family? Just don't let the parents anywhere near it.
Instinctively, George sprang after her. (33)
Bradbury reminds us that George's reaction to the lions is just "instinct" here since, if he stopped to think about it, he wouldn't run from them. But that would be a very short story: George meets lions, doesn't think they're real, and gets eaten by them. Maybe George's problem is that he should trust his instincts more.
He stepped into Africa. 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, or Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, or Dr. Doolittle, or the cow jumping over a very real-appearing moon… (72)
We cover all these references in the "Shout-Outs" and it's funny how outdated they all are. Even in 1950, these were older books. Maybe Bradbury chose these so his adult readers would get the references, since they read the children's books in the 1920s? If you were to rewrite the story today, what world would kids want to go to? The Hunger Games? Twilight? Harry Potter?
It was all right to exercise one's mind with gymnastic fantasies, but when the lively child mind settled on one pattern... ? (72)
According to George (and David McClean), the problem is not just that the kids have this fantasy, but that it's the same fantasy. Over and over and over again. That's funny to us because all we hear today is how kids can't concentrate, which seems like the opposite problem to the one Bradbury is talking about. And also… oh, shiny.
He knew the principle of the room exactly. You sent out your thoughts. Whatever you thought would appear. (76)
Of course this quote turns out to be wrong since George can't get the room to work for him. And that's too bad because it means we don't get to see what George and Lydia are really thinking. (Do you think they're thinking the same things?) Maybe this room would help George figure out his dissatisfaction, if it were working correctly. But frankly, we worry that George and Lydia might get divorced if they saw what the other was really thinking.
"My dear George, a psychologist never saw a fact in his life. He only hears about feelings; vague things." (193)
Even though the nursery is just supposed to be make-believe, what's real in this story is how people feel: parents are dissatisfied, kids are murderously angry. (See our theme of "Dissatisfaction." And oh, how we wish we had "murderously angry" as a theme here.) In other words, feelings are serious, whether or not we have virtual lions to act on them for us.
"The lions look real, don't they?" said George Hadley. I don't suppose there's any way—"
"—that they could become real?" (209-211)
Here George echoes the worry that Lydia started out with (60), which is about how real this virtual reality actually is. (Hint: it's really real.) What's tragic here is that Lydia and George both worry about the fake lions rather than the real feelings of their children. It's also tragic that they don't use this nursery to travel to Paris or something. Seriously, if you have a virtual reality room you should have a little fun before you get eaten.