The Veldt Summary

Ray Bradbury

The Veldt

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The Veldt Summary

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The Veldt is a 1950 short story by American author Ray Bradbury, first appearing in The Saturday Evening Post under the name “The World the Children Made” and reprinted under its current name in Bradbury’s 1951 anthology The Illustrated Man. Like many of Bradbury’s works, it focuses on the advent of technology and how it has the potential to change people’s lives – and the horror it can potentially inflict. Fusing elements of children’s fantasy with futuristic technology, the story focuses on a pair of children living in a fully automated futuristic house who are angry with their parents and find an escape to a simulated grassland (the “veldt” of the title) that soon proves far more real than anyone expected. Exploring themes of the potential of technology, conflict within families, and the nature of reality, The Veldt is one of Bradbury’s critically acclaimed short stories and has been adapted into radio productions, stage shows, TV movies, and a segment in the 1969 theatrical version of The Illustrated Man.

As The Veldt opens, a married couple, George and Lydia, is talking. Lydia is worried about the nursery in their new home. They live in a highly advanced house, called a “Happylife Home”. While expensive, the house does virtually everything for them. While dinner is cooking, she has time to talk with her husband, and they explore the nursery, which is designed as a high-tech playroom for their two children. The nursery features state-of-the-art virtual reality technology that allows the children to create any environment they want to explore. Currently, it is set to the African grasslands, also known as the “veldt”. The husband and wife take a tour of the lush, realistic grasslands, and come across a pride of Lions that are busy eating the product of their hunt. They see the parents, and begin chasing them. George thinks this is fun and exciting, but Lydia is terrifies. As they escape the room, Lydia is crying. George thinks she’s overreacting, but to calm her down he promises to tell their children to stop visiting the veldt and program a new, safer environment into the nursery. However, he doesn’t want to keep the kids from the nursery because he knows they’ll throw tantrums. He tells Lydia that she might need a rest, but Lydia says she actually needs more to do. She feels useless now that the house takes care of all her old responsibilities, and she thinks George feels the same way.

After George and Lydia eat a dinner cooked by the house, George visits the nursery again while the children, Peter and Wendy are off at a carnival. The nursery responds to telepathic signals, so it worries him that there’s so much death in Africa courtesy of the lions. That means the kids are thinking of death. As he approaches it, he hears a scream from the environment. He notes that the nursery used to change up frequently to different fantasy worlds but for the last month it’s always been set to Africa. He tries to think the lions away, but it doesn’t work. Lydia is worried that the kids may have hacked the nursery, since Peter seems to be a budding genius and Wendy is always willing to help him with his plans. The kids come home, and their parents ask them about the nursery. Peter and Wendy play innocent. When Wendy comes back from the nursery later, she says it’s not set to Africa. When the family checks, it’s set to a benign forest scene from a book they’ve been reading, George then sends the kids to bed (via pneumatic tube). He finds one of his wallets, chewed up by a lion, and that’s the last straw for George. He locks the nursery while the kids are sleeping. In bed, George and Lydia discuss the nursery and Lydia points out that the kids started playing on the Veldt around a month ago, when David wouldn’t let them go to New York on a trip. They decide to bring in a psychologist friend, David McClean, to look at the nursery the next day. But it may be too late, as the kids seem to have broken in already and reset the nursery to Africa. The parents hear screams that sound familiar.

The next morning, George talks to Peter about turning off the nursery, and says he’s considering turning off the whole house. Peter reacts negatively, subtly threatening his father. He loves the smart house and never wants it to go away. When David visits the nursery, he immediately notices the negative energy, saying that it feels like the kids are just using it to hash out their negative feelings towards their parents. David says the problem isn’t just the room, but the way George and Lydia interact with their kids. The kids love the room more than they love their parents. Before leaving, David finds a scarf of Lydia’s chewed by a lion. That’s enough for George. He turns off the house, and the kids react angrily. The family is planning to go on vacation soon, with David arriving to pick them up. The kids are still angry, and Lydia allows them to have one visit to the nursery before they leave. While packing, the parents hear Peter and Wendy calling for help. They rush in – only to find the room set to Africa, with no children in sight. The lions are waiting for them, and the door slams behind them. The parents realize the screams they heard were them all along. When David arrives, he finds George and Lydia missing, while the lions eat something in the background, as Peter and Wendy have a tea party on the African veldt.

Ray Bradbury was an American short story writer, novelist, and screenwriter who wrote 27 novels and over 600 short stories in his 60-plus year career. Considered one of the most significant science-fiction writers of the 20th century, he is best known for works including Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, and his coming-of-age novel Dandelion Wine. In 2004 he received the National Medal of Arts, and in 2007 he received a Pulitzer Citation for his lifetime body of work. He is widely honored, with the Ray Bradbury Award for Excellence in Screenwriting being presented yearly.