August 22, 2010
Where to Find It: The Illustrated Man, The Stories of Ray Bradbury
First Published: As “The World the Children Made,” September 23, 1950, Saturday Evening Post
Plot Synopsis: A husband and wife pamper their children by giving them a state-of-the-art nursery room, where dreams and fantasies come alive on the crystal walls. The room is a virtual-reality playroom and television of tomorrow. When the children become dependent on the new technology, their parents endeavor to wean them from it. But the children aren’t so willing to let go.
Backstory: Bradbury wrote the first draft of this story in two hours after typing the word “The Playroom” on the top of a blank page. He then envisioned what a children’s nursery of the future might look like. It was probably not coincidental that Bradbury was exploring themes of parenting gone awry—he and has wife had a one-month-old daughter at the time this story was created.
Critique: “The Veldt” is Bradbury’s first cautionary tale about the advent of television and the dangerous cultural implications of the evolving technology. When he wrote the story, in December 1949, TV was in its infancy; very few Americans, in fact, had televisions in their homes at the time. Bradbury would, just a few years later, examine the theme of a growing cultural dependency on technology and the proliferation of mass media in greater depth in Fahrenheit 451. “The Veldt” paved the way for 451. Dark, haunting, with a twisted ending, “The Veldt” is regularly selected for comprehensive world literature anthologies such as The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Taut and expertly crafted, the story is one of Bradbury’s finest cautionary tales about the mishandling of technology.