Stretching Minds Through Short Stories - The Veldt Summary

Beyond Entertainment

Wednesday is my favorite day of the week, well, at least at school. It's the day I get to move beyond the ever changing routine and actually have a discussion with the kids that they want to have. I've decided to start this series as a challenge to all of the people who've ever told me that American children no longer possess imaginations, that they have no focus beyond their video games, or that they just don't have the drive they used to have academically. You are wrong, and my kids will prove it. 

Children and Voices

It's important to remember that everything we do influences the minds of the children around us. The things we wear, the things we say, and more importantly the opinions that we sometimes pass down without even stopping to really think about what we say. They learn from our every word, the words we don't say, the shrug of our shoulders, the spontaneous smiles, and the smiles that are withheld. Book clubs encourage discussion, friendly debate, and critical thinking. They are not a venue for showcasing our superior minds; they are meant to "open" up the collective minds of the group itself, allow for imagination, and most importantly give the children a voice to interpret and apply fine literature to their own lives, to see that they've something of their own experiences to apply in every situation, and they do just that......... proudly and loudly.

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is one of the most popular American writers of our time. Over the years his writing has not only been embraced by literary circles, but has served to inspire filmmakers and television executives as well. His writing is timeless, and appreciation for his work has no boundaries. He appeals to young audiences as well as the more mature; he changes the way that people think, but more than that, he makes them think.

The Veldt is one of Bradbury's short stories, and was originally published in the Saturday Evening Post under the title, The World the Children Made. It was later republished in Bradbury's anthology The Illustrated Man.


Change In America

The 1950s brought many changes to America; America was changing, technology was changing, and the fear that families too would change became a worry for many. Technology was feared, not for the advances being made, but for the way they might affect the family as a whole. The world of television was invading the homes of American families, and American families were both enthralled by its appearance, and yet unsure how this new family member would affect the family unit as it settled in and made itself at home. Bradbury wrote The Veldt in response to this fear, but he takes it one step further. Bradbury creates a machine that purposely allows that separation and detachment, a machine that has the capability of destroying the family unit, and it does.




The Veldt/ A Summary

George and Lydia have it all, and that's exactly what they've given their children. The couple have purchased a Happy Life Home, and they've purchased it for $30,000.00. Just think; it cooks your food........ no more cooking; it does your laundry, and it dresses you. Breakfast, lunch, dinner......... all you have to do is sit at the table and your every wish is granted. You are washed and bathed, massaged and coddled, rocked to sleep, and transported through your home without having to move a muscle, all of this luxury and yet, they've even upgraded. At half of the cost of the house, a mere $15,000.00, they've added an enormous nursery. Nothings too good for their children, or is it?

The nursery can be anything the kids desire. It can be the beach or a fairy tale. They can travel anywhere they'd like, experience anything the world has to offer, and do it all from the enormous addition that was made to their home. The room comes complete with wind, hot sun, and yes, even "odorphonics." You'd never know the places weren't real, or are they real?


The Dreams of Children

The story opens with Lydia drawing her husband into a conversation about their children. She is visibly worried that they are spending far too much time in the nursery, that the places they're visiting aren't suitable, and that the fact they they have chosen the African Veldt as their escape of choice is alarming.

She wants her husband to call the psychologist, but she wants him to call the psychologist for the house. The "happy home" that they talk to, the home that talks back, that they thank for its every service; the home that was supposed to make their lives perfect, but it isn't perfect and she's crying. She wants to leave; she feels as if she's become unimportant, that she's not needed. She's no longer the caregiver, no longer a wife, no longer a mother, and she isn't wrong.

The children come home and they want their nursery; their parents talk about shutting it down, and they react as if a cherished family member has passed away. They throw tantrums, they threaten, and then they shift gears just quickly enough that they get their way. They know exactly how to manipulate; they know that their parents will give them anything to keep the peace, and they know this because their parents have forgotten how to be parents. Their attachment is not to the ones who game them life, but rather the technology that has taken care of them. The house is their parents; it's the only caregiver they've ever known, and because of their love and loyalty to that caregiver they are willing to do anything they have to in order to save its life.

Where did the veldt come from, and why is it their preferred destination? What happened to the fairy tales, the trips to Wonderland, the cow jumping over the moon, and visions of Pegasus flying in the sky that was a ceiling. Where had the fairy castles, fireworks, and sounds of angels gone? Why the veldt? Why the sounds of roaring lions, the heat from the sun, the smell of blood, and why the screams. Who is screaming?



 

Exasperated and frightened the parents call on the psychologist. He too is concerned, and explains what the room was intended for:

"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. In this case, however, the room has become a channel toward destructive thoughts instead of a release from them."

He explains that the children are emotionally "in trouble," that the children have become more than the spoiled children he'd originally become acquainted with, and that for some reason they've become angry, or let down in some way. George admits that punishments for bad behavior have been to deny the children of things that are second nature to them, and is told that these things that have been taken away are the things that have replaced both he and his wife in the children's affection. George had once been a Santa, and now he was a Scrooge, and we all know that kids don't like Scrooge.

His advice is to shut off the house completely, to put the children in therapy, and to get as far away as possible from the life they've been living, but can they? Can they get away? Can they say no and really mean it?

That is where I'll leave the summary.......... look the story up online; it's a short one, and here is what my eighth graders had to say about the whole thing............

 
 

Do you know what they really want?
Do you know what they really want?

Wants and Needs

The first part of the discussion was pretty basic, but it was also filled with surprises. I almost wanted to make a list of the things that came up, but I don't think that it would have the same effect. I would rather invite the parents of these eleven children in for an instant replay. I think they'd be touched, but that they'd also leave feeling more than a little guilty. It was an eye opener.

For starters, your kids know the difference between wants and needs; they love technology, but they love something else more, and that would be you. I'll start with cell phones; the kids love to own them, but they want you to lose yours more than they love the ones that they carry. There wasn't one child in this group who didn't dread the call from work on the weekend that would take their parents away; they hate the accessibility that takes you away from them. They look at your phones as intruders, and they are almost jealous of them to a certain point. The girls talked about waiting for shopping trips with their mothers, and then never having their mother's complete attention because they spent their time on the phone; at that point they wished they'd just gone with their friends. This is where we lose them, the times that we're with them, but we're not; the times that are supposed to be planned and special, but that lose the "special." They want that undivided attention, and they need it.

Most all of these kids come from two income families; they appreciate that their parents work to give them the things they need, but they don't like the time taken away that gives them what they want. None of them claimed to be immune to wants, but each and every one of them admitted to having more than they need. They all want to spend more time with their parents, and they want it more than they want the video game or the new clothes; they want the time, not the overtime.

The boys talked a lot about baseball games, and they glowed over dad showing up for the last few innings, but they also had no trouble mentioning the missed home run. All of them, both the girls and the boys wished there were more family dinners, resent the times they're shooed out of the room because everyone is too busy, and claim that each of their parents has unknowingly used the television, gaming systems, and the computer as a babysitter. Don't get me wrong, there was no parent bashing in this group; it was all just honesty; their feelings and their honesty.

Peter Pan and Wendy
Peter Pan and Wendy

"Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all. Come with me where you'll never, never have to worry about grown up things again. "

One of the boys; one of my quiet ones, made one of the most thought provoking analogies of the entire discussion, one of the best I've ever heard, maybe because I'd never thought of it myself. We won't talk about the fact that I've used this story probably six times in the last eight years, that it was required reading for me while in high school, or that I've had the pleasure of working with some really brilliant kids in the past; he wowed me! As all of the other kids were challenging each other over the deep meaning of Africa, the smell of blood, bloody wallets, and comparing Bradbury's futuristic vision of the nursery to the present day IMAX Theatre and playing games on Wii; he completely changed the course of the discussion with this simple question, "Do you think the author had a hidden meaning in using the characters of Peter and Wendy in this story? They are Peter Pan and Wendy you know?"

Well, I didn't know, and I still don't, but they had an unreal debate about the lost boys, and the desire to stay children, and the fact that technology, going home to empty houses, and all of the chaos of everyone coming home and just trying to get it all done has taken away their ability to just be kids. They talked about wanting to go fishing, and to be able to do something after school without it taking major planning; they talked about just wanting to be able to go outside, and the fact that most of them can't because they need to go home. They don't want to, but they need to, and they do understand, but they also grasped this understanding that Peter and Wendy didn't know love, and how it made them selfish, and they likened this understanding to Peter Pan's not understanding what a mother is. Peter Pan thought nothing of his actions because he didn't know better. He couldn't understand Wendy's attachment and love for her family because he'd never had one, and that lack of knowledge made him their perfect example of unknowing selfishness.

What every child needs and wants...........

The end of our time together brought even more insights to the way our children think, and don't ever misguide yourself into believing that they don't; they think, and they think deeply. Our discussion ended with thoughts of what would happen had a child never known love, a child's never having been nurtured, and the fact that love grows through a sense of touch, the feeling of security, and what you see in the eyes of the people who love you. My readers conceded that Peter and Wendy had never experienced the warmth of human touch, or that they had forgotten it. They described the children's lack of emotion and detachment from their parents as inevitable; the children were cold because they'd never felt warmth; they were detached because they'd never felt connected, and they were unable to really feel love because they didn't know what it felt like. The children felt nothing, nothing for their parents, and nothing for the things around them; they were empty inside, and it wasn't their fault. All they knew was the house, and to them the house was the one living thing they had to come home to every day. It took care of what they needed, and they didn't want it to die. One of the girls likened this to a boy she'd had a crush on; she said he was a jerk, but he was a boyfriend, and a jerky boyfriend was better than not having one at all......... so in her eyes, the house was better than nothing. I'll give her that, but I will be challenging her jerky boyfriend theory in a smaller setting.

That is where I'll end. The rest of our discussion was all about Bradbury's conclusion to the story, and I want you to read it. Revealing the end would be defeating the purpose, and it's a killer ending.

More by this Author


Comments 23 comments

Ohma profile image

Ohma 7 years ago

I agree children are the sum of what they learn from the people they love. That makes our tasks as parent, teacher, friend, whatever the most valuable job in the country.

Nice Hub!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 7 years ago Author

Thank you! And I agree, I think it's time for all of these people to take back the role of "role model." Great insight. Glad you came by.........


Cleanclover profile image

Cleanclover 7 years ago from Piece of land!

Every child is approval seaking. I feel when they grow up they have to come out of this by becoming a bit more shameless. I don't know i dont have any kids but I am telling you my own experience. I wanted approvals from my parents and teachers everytime this may become my weakness but when i became 21 years old I took charge of my life and what my parents taught me really never mattered. Now I am 25 and I feel what really matters is what we think and feel. And we always feel good what we love to do from heart rather than seaking somebody's approval or doing something because jesus told me to do it.

Thank you for this great hub.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 7 years ago Author

Clean Clover- I agree with you to a point. We are each and every one of us an individual, and the things that we carry within us are the very things that make us who we are. Human interaction marks us one way or another......... good or bad, all of us, both children and adults.

Children seek approval, and they blossom when they receive positive reactions from the people around them. Children need to be loved; a child who receives nothing but negative attention often learns to behave in just that way in order to receive "attention." They behave badly because "negative attention" is better than no attention at all. The child who receives "nothing" comes to expect nothing. They're the quiet ones; the children you sometimes forget are there because they will themselves to disappear and they become very good at it.

You took charge of your life at twenty-one, but I think that if you really look at it the relationships you had with your parents and other adults did matter. Those relationships are the things that taught you exactly who you wanted to be, or maybe even who you didn't want to be. The most important thing is that you know who you are................


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I must hand it to you, teacher. This is one fine article. I know how these kids feel, even though I grew up without cell phones.

My mother left when I was one. I was the rare child in the custody of his father in the 60s and 70s. My father was a legendary womanizer and pilot who would leave me alone for a week at a time when I was maybe ten years old. It is spooky in a creaky old house by yourself all night. He was never interesting in anything I did and never taught me anything—how to tie shoes, how to shave, how to dress. I never saw him do a chore, laundry or cook.

It's not that he didn't love me. He showed his love by giving me money—lots of it. "I'll be gone a week," He'd say. I'd peak around him and see a young little hottie waiting in his car. "Here's a hundred bucks. If you need help, call your uncle Skip."

I am lucky I am not feral. I learned everything I could from books. I was determined to learn how to be as good as everybody else. Then maybe somebody would love me.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 7 years ago Author

My sincerest thanks, coming from you "one fine article" is an enormous compliment.

As a child I would never have been able to understand your being left alone. I was a total daddy's girl, always will be, but then I got to learn about real life, and I don't see anything the way I used to. The little girl went away, and the woman who replaced her became me.

Your destiny was not to be feral; you were always as good as everyone else, and everything you've learned has made you who you are. I think you did good, awwwwwww, maybe better than good. :-)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

Thank you, Kaie.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 7 years ago Author

James.......... no thanks necessary. Just stating the truth.

I look at my kids, especially my son, and I know that he could easily have been far different than he is today, but that it didn't happen because he knows who he is. He knows what he wants, and he has no problem telling anyone what he doesn't want. It's a strength that other people can see in someone, but that they can't always understand.

From what you've said I think you're very like him........... somehow I can see you at fourteen, I remember him at fourteen like it was yesterday, and today I it's something that I understand. I'd like to think I had something to do with who he has become, but I have to tell you that I think he's had more to do with who I've become.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

When I was 14 the whole school bus would get off at my house—with notes from their parents of course. And the party was on! My band was set up in the living room and we would jam for hours with maybe 50 kids enraptured. Those were fun days. :)


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 7 years ago Author

James........ oh, I bet. At fourteen I probably would have been there. The kinda quiet one in the corner- but I would have been there. ;-)


Ashlyn 6 years ago

Haha, "it's a killer ending" is definitely right! I enjoyed reading this story!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Ha! I'm so glad you liked it. It is a KILLER, and this HUB was actually really worthwhile because it got you to read it. Glad you came!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

This is a wonderful Hub. Children are so deep and we so often forget just how much they take in and how sensitive and intelligent they are. I also loved this Hub because I am a great Bradbury fan, though somehow I have not read this story.

As an African I was attracted by the word "Veldt" in your title - that's old Dutch way of spelling it. In Afrikaans now we spell it without the "t" at the end: "veld".

Thanks again for a very special Hub.

Love and peace

Tony


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

tonymac04- Thank you, and I agree! Children's feelings and perceptions are often overlooked, but I can honestly say that it's something I have never done, and the main reason I started this series.

Bradbury is one of the best, and this particular story is one of my personal favorites.

Thanks again,

Kaie


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Great discussion! Your students would also love "Something Wicked This Way Comes," by Bradbury.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

habee- Yes, it was a great discussion! The kids have become enormous Bradbury fans, and I have admittedly never read "Something Wicked This Way Comes," but I will be looking for it this weekend............ thank you for the suggestion.

Kaie


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

There's also a great movie of "Something Wicked..." You might want to look for it. Our school library had it.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

habee- I read the story........... it was fabulous, and now I'll have to see if I can come up with a copy of the movie on Amazon. That you for letting me know! I really appreciate it!

Kaie


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Although I never read The Veldt, the synopsis (minus the ending, of course) and the ensuing discussion with your school kids about it made for an absolutely excellent hub. Yes children need not only the love but attention of their parents. All the modern technology can never take the place of true parenting "in the flesh." Rated useful and up!


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago Author

Peggy- Good to see you. The Veldt is a great story, and just a little disturbing ;-) It is the one story I've done throughout the years that never fails to completely shock the kids with its ending, or make them think about the things that cause emotional distance from our families, things we use everyday. Parenting will never be replaced.........

Right now we're reading The Giver in 8th grade; it's being used as a novel in 8th grade reading. New for me............. and just as gripping. It's an easy read with a great lesson!

Thanks for stopping by, always good to see you! Kaie


yoginijoy profile image

yoginijoy 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

I recommend the story "La luz es como el agua" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In English, it is probably "Light is like Water" or something close to that. It is very similar to The Veldt. I think you and your students may find a lot to talk about after reading it! Excellent topic, voting up and beautiful.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 4 years ago Author

Thank you............ and I'll be looking up "Light is like Water," to read this summer. Another week of school and vacation begins! Thanks again, Kaie


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 4 years ago Author

Thank you............ and I'll be looking up "Light is like Water," to read this summer. Another week of school and vacation begins! Thanks again, Kaie

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working