Sunday, September 1, 2013
The Mysterious Worlds of Children's Imaginations
Engl 10103-045, Waggoner
In Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt, a mysterious world is created within the walls of a nursery through the imaginations of two young children, Wendy and Peter. This nursery, also known as a veldt, is just one of the several rooms of George and Lydia Hadley’s smart house, a house they seem to quickly be losing control of. Although the nursery was originally designed to “catch the telepathic emanations of the children’s minds and create life to fill their every desire” (Bradbury 268) and “help them work off their neuroses in a healthful way” (271), it seems to take a turn for the worst as the children create an African veldt full of scorching heat, lions, and death. While I was reading this short story, I initially thought Peter and Wendy were possibly Peter and Wendy from the children’s movie, Peter Pan. However, as I continued to read I learned I was incorrect, yet there are numerous similarities to draw between the two. In The Veldt, Wendy and Peter slowly begin to neglect their parents as they invest their time and imaginations in creating a magical world full of mystery, anticipation, and dread. They are annoyed with their parents, and refuse to shut down the smart house and nursery, for fear of having to be independent and do things on their own. Peter Pan also takes place in a nursery, beginning with Wendy acting frustrated with her father for making her “grow up”. Peter Pan comes along, inviting her to join him in traveling to Neverland, a magical world where their imaginations are the limit and where one does not have to grow up.
A particular gothic trope stood out to me while reading The Veldt, and it is also evident throughout Peter Pan. The sublime is a term used to describe a powerful feeling of awe and terror inspired by nature; one may become awe-struck or afraid of elements in nature that don’t seem scary from afar. In The Veldt, the children create a world where lions roam, kill, and eat. When looking at the lions from a distance, they don’t seem dangerous or harmful; after all, the only time one typically encounters a lion is at a zoo, where they are locked behind steel bars. However in this African veldt, it terrifies the children as the lions get louder and closer. In the same way, Neverland in Peter Pan is full of pirates, mermaids, and crocodiles. None of these seem frightening, but while watching the movie one sees how Captain Hook is an evil pirate who wants to kill Peter Pan. Mermaids are thought of as beautiful sea creatures, but these mermaids attempt to drown Wendy. And the crocodile who lives in the sea is on the hunt for Captain Hook. Nerverland is a magical, wonderful world, yet there are elements of nature that frighten the children and invoke feelings of suspense and terror. Although Peter Pan and The Veldt are completely different stories with different endings, they both contain elements similar to one another, contributing to their overall significance as children’s stories and movies.
Bradbury, Ray. “The Veldt.” American Gothic Tales. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: The Penguin Group. 264-277. Print.