Ray Bradbury in the Pedestrian tells a story of Mr. Leonard Meade, a writer in the year 2053. This is an odd profession since nobody reads books anymore. The book opens up with Mr. Meade stepping out for his usual evening pastime, taking a walk. He lives alone with no family, having never been married. The nighttime walks are a way for him to fill his time. He is the only pedestrian on the road. He takes pleasure in his walks, an interest no one else seems to share. It comes as no shock for him because, in the ten years of his walks, he has never encountered another person. The streets are dark, empty, and silent.
In his mind, the pedestrian compares the houses to graveyards since little to no activity goes on in them. The only evidence of human activity is the vague flickering of life and light within. The televisions in this era have taken up the social lives of people and they rarely leave their houses. He stops and talks to the houses to amuse himself. He would say things like, “A revenue? What’s up tonight on channel 7? A comedian falling off the stage?” as he passes the houses unnoticed. You can tell that the city is safe since he has never encountered any altercation with anyone. Not to attract attention or be followed by dogs, the author says that Mr. Meade learned to wear sneakers.
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On his way back home on this particular night, Mr. Meade encounters a police vehicle. This comes as a surprise because the force was reduced from three cars to one since the city holds three million people. The odds of him having a run in with the police were slim to none. The police car stops him, the possibility of the vehicle being robotic is high since the society is heavily automated. He is ordered to stop and put his hands up by a metallic voice. He tries to explain what he was doing and that he is only a block away from his house but he is threatened that if he does not comply he will get shot.
Follow up questions come afterward. What do you do for a living? He answers that he is a writer, this is interpreted as unemployed. What is being a writer anyway? Mr. Meade agrees it may be true since he had not come up with any content in years. He knows his lack of motivation has been consistent since nobody reads books or magazines anymore. He is asked about his whereabouts but cannot give a satisfactory answer. He tries to explain that he was walking to get some air which proves pointless since the car cannot understand the essence of that. How can walking be a hobby? After uncovering that he does not own a television, they deem him as a danger to himself and the society. The vehicle fails to understand how a person can lack interest in watching TV. He is then ordered to enter the car and is not surprised to discover that there is no driver. At this point, Mr. Meade is fearful for his safety as he gets inside the cell-like back seat. He is informed by the car that he will be taken to the psychiatric center since his tendencies are regressive. The fact that he’s not married and his wife cannot provide an alibi for him did not help the situation. As he is seated and trapped in his seat, the door is slammed and the car rolls on. On the way, they pass by his house, the only one with bright lights coming from it. He tries to protest once more, only to get no response from the car as he is taken away.
Bradbury has always shown skepticism of technology in his books, and once more, he did so in the Pedestrian. The book is written from a third person. In a nutshell, the theme explores the dependency on technology in the society and what it will inexorably become. A regular pastime of walking in the book comes off as strange and regressive. This is a story of humanity versus technology. People have become dependent on the television giving up all their physical and emotional control.
The car represents the government authority by determining what is best for the society. Having people indoors the whole night is a way to distract them from the doings of the government. Mr. Meade stands out as a protester who is an outcast in the society because of taking walks alone on the streets. As much as Mr. Meade’s behavior was non-threatening to anyone, they concluded it was. The author depicts the downfall of humankind as technology takes over. This is made evident by the robot police vehicle. You can tell that the car does not comprehend the need for humanity. It does not understand the purpose of walking. The police also deny the existence of humanity by not recognizing the profession of a writer as a form of employment. A regular job in the Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury is a typical day job and in the evening, to remain indoors and watch television. The mere fact that Mr. Meade did not own a TV was enough to portray him as rebellious and fighting authority. In the book, this was what angered the authorities the most.
The most critical issue that the Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury highlights is the lack of communication in the society. The observation is eminent when Mr. Meade takes his walks alone and talks to himself or the houses for the lack of company. He has never met anyone in years. With the current trend of the society mostly glued to their smartphones, nobody has time to check on each other. What about the year 2053? Could we be as predictable as publicized by the Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury? And is it a bad or good thing?
Mr. Meade represents the humankind aspect of the book. His house is the embodiment of humanity which is warm and bright. The light also represents his soul. His house is unlike the other houses on the street which were not well-lit and only showed a flicker of light from their television sets. The loss of humanity is illustrated by the metallic voice of the robot police car. Bradbury described Mr. Meade as having a “shadow of hawk.” This translates to him being free-spirited as a person. When he is seated in the car, he is trapped. This shows how much entrapment we face in regards to technology. You will find that it’s the elderly who will mostly enjoy nature walks in the future, and the rest of us expect to be entertained by technology in one form or the other. The houses were zombie-like with no life. This is how lifeless we will be if we do not learn to get out more.
As the police car drives off and Mr. Meade’s bright light fades away, this represents the last of humankind in the Pedestrian summary. We cannot tell for sure if the society will follow the chains as observed in this the Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury summary, and only time will tell.