Defamiliarization in Ray Bradbury’s “the Veldt”

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THE END OF THE NURSERY AS WE KNOW IT - DEFAMILIARIZATION IN RAY BRADBURY’S “THE VELDT” Ray Bradbury’s story The Veldt treats the dangers and threats people may experience from machines. The story examines the negative impact of the excessive use of technology, on our life in general and on children upbringing in particular. The defamiliarization technique helps develop the theme of the numbing effect automation has on our lives. Defamiliarization was brought forward by the early twentieth century Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky, in his article “Art as Technique”. According to Shklovsky, defamiliarization is the technique of art to “make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult” in order to slow down perception. The purpose of defamiliarization in art is to “recover the sensation of life”, when perception becomes habitual and automatic (Shklovsky, 20-21). I will now illustrate some of the ways used in The Veldt in order to remove objects from the automatism of perception. The Veldt describes a family who lives in a technological home that automatically tends to their every need. The house also contains an electronic nursery which brings the children’s fantasies into virtual life. According to Wayne L. Johnson in his book “Ray Bradbury”, The Veldt is one of Bradbury’s stories about the dangers of depending on machines that can go awry. Johnson argues that the story is a kind of warning from the consequences of letting technological means (like television) replace parental attention (Johnson, 79-80). The first paragraph of the story marks the beginning of the defamiliarization process. The story starts with a dialog between the parents, George and Lydia, in which Lydia suggests to “call a psychologist in to look at” the nursery. She adds casually “you know very well what he’d want”, as though this is not unusual for a psychologist to examine a room
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