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The Veldt by Ray Bradbury: Summary & Setting

Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

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

You might've 'blessed the rains down in Africa,' but have you ever watched lions at dinnertime? Experience the mortal terror of a fantasy come to life, in this lesson exploring the plot and setting of Ray Bradbury's short story, 'The Veldt.'

Down in Africa: Exploring 'The Veldt' by Ray Bradbury

We spend a lot of time as kids fantasizing of far-off lands and exotic creatures. But what if you had some way to make those dreams closer to reality? With everything from movies to video games to rides and attractions, we try to make many of our childhood fantasies as close to reality as possible (i.e. visual or tangible details). But have you ever experienced one of these creations - perhaps a particularly scary haunted house - that you thought was a little too real for comfort? George and Lydia Hadley certainly have in this short sci-fi thriller from Ray Bradbury.

Synopsis

Despite what you might imagine life isn't ideal in the Hadley's fantastic 'Happylife Home' - a futuristic house that caters to literally every need or desire (i.e. shoe-tying and cutting food) its residents may have. The story opens with Lydia wanting George to look at their children's 'nursery,' which is a large room with crystalline walls that interpret occupants' thoughts and projects them as sensory details (even smells).

The problem Lydia's found with the nursery is its current configuration on the hot African grasslands, with sensations of a lion feeding frenzy playing repeatedly. Initially, George doesn't really see anything wrong with it, but agrees to lock-up the nursery for a bit at Lydia's insistence that she can't compete as a mother with that sort of entertainment. George reminds her of the tantrum the children threw the last time they locked the room even momentarily, but concedes.

While young Peter and Wendy are at a carnival 'across town,' George goes to the nursery to inspect it alone and reflect on the savage nature of the thoughts that are producing this African illusion. At dinner after the children return, the children deny any knowledge of the grasslands, and Wendy runs down the hall to show her father. He scurries after her.

By the time he's caught up, she's already in the nursery, which has now become a tranquil jungle scene. While there, George also inexplicably finds an old wallet of his - mangled and covered in blood and the smell of lions. After securing the room, the family goes to bed, where George and Lydia discuss what to do. They decide to call-in a psychologist to inspect the nursery, while their bed rocks them to sleep against the sounds of oddly familiar screams coming from the returned grasslands in the room below.

The next morning, Peter is cold and threatening toward his father as they discuss the prospect of shutting-down the house. A little later, psychologist David McClean arrives. He and George step into the nursery. Almost immediately, David has a bad feeling about the children's mental state, and finding Lydia's bloodied scarf only confirms it as they power-down the room.

Uneasiness with the nursery and the entire mechanized house leads George to decide on moving as soon as possible. As he prepares himself, he allows the children one last go at their virtual world after their frantic pleas, and Lydia's own insistence persuade him. The couple rushes back down when they hear the children urgently call, only to find the nursery empty except for the now-usual lions.

The door quickly shuts and locks behind them as they hear Peter ominously say 'Don't let them switch off the nursery and the house.' Almost on command, the lions attack George and Lydia, 'And suddenly they realized why those other screams had sounded familiar.' David Mclean returns to help the family move, but finds the children nonchalantly having a grasslands tea party as the lions finish their meal.

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