Characters in The Veldt by Ray Bradbury

Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

You might think your family's crazy, but you probably haven't met the Hadleys yet. Come get acquainted with the whole disconnected crew in this lesson on the characters found in Bradbury's 'The Veldt.'

Meet the Hadleys: Characters in 'The Veldt' by Ray Bradbury

We can all probably remember throwing a tantrum at least once when we were little. Chances are we didn't get something that we really wanted, but the chances are also good that we were reprimanded for our behavior and learned from the experience. As psychologist David McClean - a supporting character in Bradbury's short story - discovers, however, this usual process of rearing children is clearly not at work in the Hadley household.

Instead, George and Lydia Hadley cater to their children's every whim. With apparently huge sums of wealth, George had their 'Happylife Home' constructed - a futuristic house that manages literally every aspect of their lives. He also added an extra feature: the children's virtual nursery, which reads the occupants' thoughts and transmits the full sensory experience through crystalline walls.

As one might expect, Peter and Wendy Hadley are consequently spoiled brats. However, instead of simply kicking and screaming (which they do plenty of, anyway), these two have more murderous ways of rebelling. Not wanting to be separated from the comforts of home, the children use the lions on the African veldt, or wide open rural landscape, they've created in their nursery to eliminate the only things stopping them from doing exactly as they please - their parents. Keep reading as we explore along with Dr. McClean the damaged psyches of this deathly dysfunctional family!

The Parents

'George, you'll have to change your life. Like too many others, you've built it around creature comforts…' is McClean's professional opinion following his inspection of the children's nursery. The Hadley patriarch has used his considerable wealth to surround his family with the latest in futuristic luxury. The Hadleys literally don't even have to lift a finger to do something as simple as cutting their own food. Aside from all the amenities he's provided, George also goes to great lengths to ensure his kids have whatever they could desire.

The virtual nursery, however, may have been a step too far, and even Lydia realizes it. In the beginning of the story, she's unnerved by the children's choice of a grassland full of ravenous lions, but perhaps even more so by the fact that she feels inferior to this piece of technology. 'The house is wife and mother now, and nursemaid' Lydia confesses, saying she can't possibly 'compete with an African veldt' for the kids' attention. And she's not the only one who thinks so.

While trying to understand why the children would be harboring hostility toward their parents, Dr. McClean discovers that George locked the room for a couple days around a month ago - about the same time the veldt first appeared - to discipline the kids. 'Ah, ha!,' he responds, '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. And now you come along and want to shut if off. No wonder there's hatred here.'

Essentially, George and Lydia have allowed themselves to become so complacent and lazy that they take little or no active roles in their children's lives at all. This has made them obsolete to Peter and Wendy, and like how you might throw out an outdated smartphone, the children have no qualms about getting rid of useless equipment.

The Kids

At first glance, even Dr. McClean thought that the Hadleys had simply 'spoiled (their) children more than most,' but closer examination reveals something more disturbing than just a couple of brats. In fact, after interpreting Peter and Wendy's handiwork in the nursery, the psychologist concludes that they most likely need at least a year's worth of therapy. But what damage has actually been done?

Peter and Wendy's problems are very much connected to where Bradbury got their names: J.M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy, which you might know better as Peter Pan. Even if you're not familiar at all with Barrie's story, you're probably still aware that Peter Pan has become a cultural icon of eternal youth. However, as whimsical and imaginative as this notion may be, it presents some difficulties to real-life growth and development.

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