18 March 2018
Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt:” Awakening of Folie à Deux
In Ray Bradbury’s short story, The Veldt, the readers are taken to the future and into the spoiled life of the technology based society to show the faults in becoming dependent to the automatic lifestyle were everything is done for people. While the story primarily focused on Mr. and Mrs. Hadley’s perspective, the children played a significant role in the story. Peter and Wendy, having been nursed and raised by their Happylife Home, were willfully attached to the non-living power source. Because they were so close to their nursery, the Happylife Home and nursery became the parents and the real parents became unwanted punishers. With Peter and Wendy having shared mindsets and a deep, private connection, the theory is they both share the same psychotic disorder, folie à deux. Folie à deux, a shared psychotic disorder, is a delusion or mental illness shared between two people in close association (“Shared Psychotic Disorder”). In “The Veldt”, Peter and Wendy display symptoms of folie a deux through their behavior, their mimicking, and their beliefs that guided them to misinterpret their reality and cause harm towards their loved ones.
The first sign of folie à deux is the reaction the siblings have to the closing of their nursery. In the beginning of the story when Mrs. Hadley insists the veldt should be shut down because of the unsettling screams and lions. Mr. Hadley is quite skeptical to comply because, “... you know how difficult Peter is about that…. They live for that nursery” (Bradbury3). The mother wants to start over, but Mr. Hadley believes that it will further damage the uneasy relationship they have with their children. Even though their illness is shared, there is always a primary partner creating and commanding (“Folie a Deux is a Psychosis you Share with the One you Love”). In this story, Peter is suggested to be the leader. This is shown during his punishment away from the nursery when he insists on speaking for his sister and takes the lead in disobeying Mr. and Mrs. Hadley commands. When told that the nursery would be taken away for only a few hours Peter threw a horrible tantrum until it was unlocked for him and his sister.
In addition to the symptoms of this disorder, it is shown through Peter’s dominating attitude towards his parent and Wendy’s desire to copy him. Peter and Wendy are first shown holding hands, showing the closeness between them, and both simultaneously explaining how they are both full but want to watch the parents eat. Once confronted at the table about the eerie Africa scenery in the nursery, Peter naturally disagrees with them as if the parents were the delusional ones. In support of each other’s psychotic belief, Wendy willingly agrees with Peter and when he demands her to run and come tell, she obeys him. Once the parents entered the veldt again, Africa was gone. Because of the children’s willingness to lie about spending most of their time in Africa, they shut down the nursery. Article suggested that the primary diagnosis in the dominant partner in this variant of folie à deux is a symptom of pathological lying (“When Two People Go Insane Together”). Later on, in the middle of the night, Peter provokes his parents by aggressively threating that he did not think that they should consider turning off the whole house, while his sister was breaking in the veldt downstairs. His hostile attitude furthermore proves the theory the he is the primary partner of this psychotic disorder.
The connections the siblings have to the house is the third example that further displays their illness. Once Mr. David McClean made an appearance, Peter and Wendy grew very worrisome. David McClean, a psychiatrist, advised the parents,” … to have the whole damn room torn down and your children bought to me every day during the next year for treatment” (Bradbury10). Doctor McClean spots the children’s delusion as he tells the parents,” … you’ve let this room and this house replace you and your wife in your children’s affections. This room is their mother and father, far more important in their lives than their real parents” (Bradbury10). In the delusional minds of Peter and Wendy, they believe that the home is their real parent and that those “real” parents are just imposters trying to steal their happiness. Their connection is deep to the point that they will do anything to stay and the house will do anything to make them stay. Once told that the house would be shut down and that they will be moving, Ray Bradbury showed the real side of the siblings. Having something important taken away abruptly can lead to a psychotic break. Peter screams to the house,” Don’t let them do it. Don’t let father kill everything” (Bradbury 12). The disorder Folie à deux, a sharing of delusions, influenced them to believe that their parents did not deserve to live. Therefore, giving permission for the veldt to take care of them. Because of Peter’s demanding tones and leadership, Wendy’s actions of an acolyte, both of their secretive lifestyle and beliefs proves that they have a case of folie a deux.
Throughout the short story the psychosis of folie à deux re occurred, showing the one mindedness of Peter and Wendy and how strong the delusions of sharing minds can be. It reoccurs when Peter and Wendy are confronted about the nursey. It happens when they are threatened by their parents. It is shown through their outrageous behavior when being rejected by their parents. Lastly, it is shown neutral attitude as their parent are being eaten alive a few feet away from them. Bradbury’s story of virtual reality worsened their condition of folie a deux and made it difficult for the siblings to tell fiction from reality, thus was the awakening of pure evil.
Hamer, Ashley. “Folie À Deux Is the Psychosis You Share with the One” Curiosity.com, 10 Mar. 2017, curiosity.com/topics/folie-a-deux-is-the-psychosis-you-share-with-the-one-you-love-curiosity/.
Bradbury, Ray. “The Veldt- Intermediate Level Story”. www.juhsd.net, 2016, https://www.juhsd.net/cms/lib/CA01902464/Centricity/Domain/256/2016_The Veldt.pdf
Inglis-Arkell, Esther. “Folie à Deux: When Two People Go Insane Together.” io9, 26 Oct. 2012, io9.gizmodo.com/5955095/folie-a-deux-when-two-people-go-insane-together.
“Shared Psychotic Disorder.” Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, www.minddisorders.com/Py-Z/Shared-psychotic-disorder.html.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "Peter and Wendy Hadley in” The Veldt." Shmoop. 11 Nov. 2008. 19 Mar. 2018.