Study Guide

The Veldt Themes

  • Technology

    "The Veldt" presents technology as something that makes life easy—maybe too easy. In fact, technology makes life so easy that it's not even really living any more, according to George. Most of the technology in "The Veldt" seems to ruin the perfectly fine way of life that existed before. So the kids aren't reading anymore or even going out to play; instead, they're just playing with the newest cool gadget, the nursery. (Which is, believe it or not, cooler than the Wii or iPad.) But despite all the cool tech, it's clear that in "The Veldt," the more technology you have, the more dissatisfaction you have, because you start ignoring your family and start hanging out with felines.

    Questions About Technology

    1. Is there any positive technology in this story? Would the family be happy without any technology? If not, what technology would they miss?
    2. How does Bradbury describe technology? Could you build a nursery from the description in this story? Or do you get a sense of what it means to use a nursery?
    3. Is there something that makes the nursery special? Could you write the same story about, say, cars? (Which also became more popular in the 1950s.)
    4. Are you less active because of your technology in real life? Be honest!

    Chew on This

    Technology in "The Veldt" ruins the humans' relationships with real life. Real life isn't supposed to be easy.

    "The Veldt" isn't about technology. It's about how different generations deal with each other, and tech just provides a way to describe that interaction.

  • Family

    In "The Veldt," family is the opposite of technology. What we mean is that families are supposed to be one way in this story (as in, kids are supposed to listen to their parents), but when technology is thrown in the mix, everything goes topsy-turvy. Lydia doesn't do the housework (the horrors!), the kids make their own rules, and father George definitely doesn't wear the pants. So, in "The Veldt," technology can mess up that normal family we've all grown used to. This probably wouldn't matter so much if it were just one family, but family here may be a small version of society; and if the family breaks down when they get new technology, there's not a lot of hope for the rest of us.

    Questions About Family

    1. What would a parenting guide based on this story look like?
    2. Would this story have the same impact if the main characters were not family? What if George was a teacher and this whole story took place at school? Did you feel a bigger impact from this story because it's about a family?
    3. How could this family breakdown have been avoided?
    4. What effect does it have on you that the family is made up of two parents and two kids? Does everyone in the family have an equal role to play in the story?

    Chew on This

    The family in "The Veldt" is a microcosm of society, which is to say that we're all doomed because we watch way too much reality TV.

    Bradbury's idea of a normal, typical family in this story is old-fashioned, but the story still has lessons to teach us about how to treat Mom and Pop.

  • Dissatisfaction

    Dissatisfaction: it's what's for dinner. That is, if your automatic kitchen is doing the cooking and you yourself have nothing to do. In "The Veldt," thanks to technology, people are unhappy. Lydia Hadley doesn't work and feels useless; George is so unsatisfied that he's smoking and drinking too much; and the kids are so dissatisfied with their parents that they've found another parental figure. (Spoiler: it's the nursery.) We could say that, in "The Veldt," dissatisfaction comes from the effect of technology on the family. But this story isn't just about some made-up technology; it's very much about the 1950s, when people came home from World War II to discover they had money and lots of stuff, but weren't always happy.

    Questions About Dissatisfaction

    1. Who's the most satisfied character? The most dissatisfied?
    2. Do Lydia and George feel dissatisfied to the same extent? In the same way? Do they deal with it the same way? Are there better or worse ways of dealing with dissatisfaction in this story?
    3. How are these negative feelings described? Do we hear about people being angry or afraid or both? How does George describe his feelings, if he does? 
    4. Can you think of any other 1950s fiction where dissatisfaction is a major theme? For instance, how does the Dissatisfaction theme play out in On the Road? Are there any connections you could make to this story?

    Chew on This

    Bradbury's characters feel dissatisfaction rather than something more extreme (hate, depression, etc.) so that more readers can relate to the emotions.

    Bradbury presents dissatisfaction as something that can and should be avoided. We can all be happy, if only we know what we really need.

  • Versions of Reality

    "The Veldt" is a story about a virtual reality room that gets out of control. But it's also the story about how parents and children don't see eye-to-eye. Even when they're looking at the same stuff. For instance, Peter and Wendy probably think a trip to New York is fun; but George and Lydia look at that as a Very Bad Idea. To the kids, the parents are overbearing tyrants who should be fed to lions. But George and Lydia think they're laying down reasonable rules (like don't kill anyone. That's pretty reasonable.) So while the virtual reality room lets different people live in different realities, in many ways, they already do.

    Questions About Versions of Reality

    1. How does Bradbury describe the nursery when it's turned off? How about when it's turned on? How do those descriptions compare to descriptions in the rest of the story?
    2. How do the virtual realities in the nursery compare to the reality of the house? Are the virtual realities described more fully? Does Bradbury use more metaphors and similes in the virtual realities? How do the different virtual realities compare to each other?
    3. How do we know what's real in this story? And how do we feel about it? Do we automatically listen to David McClean's diagnosis on the kids' fantasy life because he's a doctor?
    4. If you had a virtual reality room, where would you want to go? Does that differ from where you think you would go if the room responded to your unconscious thoughts?

    Chew on This

    The virtual reality of the nursery is the only reality that matters, because it has the biggest impact on the characters in "The Veldt."

    "The Veldt" shows that it's a bad idea for people to learn about the fantasies of others.