Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” is a short story set in a dystopian future.
The main character, Leonard Mead, is portrayed as alone in the world whilst technology dominates the lives of all other human beings. Everywhere people are in a waking coma, their individuality destroyed, due to their addiction to technology. Bradbury uses Mead to explore this bleak world and in the process he shows us the pitfalls of our blatant consumerism and demand for technology today.
The story starts by submerging us into a cold and unwelcoming atmosphere.The inhabitants of the city Leonard Mead is travelling in are all metaphorically “dead”. Indeed, the city is compared to a graveyard with “tomb-like buildings” and “grey phantoms” throughout the story. Like corpses immured in tombs, the inhabitants are trapped in their homes, with technology replacing the need for them to socially interact. As there is no-one to care for the city, it is left to rot. “Dogs in intermittent squads” patrol the streets.
The concrete walks are “buckling” and the cement “vanishing”. This is a chilling warning to us of what the world could become if we let technology advance unchecked.It conveys a sense of dread, pessimism and most of all unease at our own society. The tense atmosphere also foreshadows the ultimate fall of Leonard Mead in the climax of the story. Overall the setting paints an unpleasant image in our minds, showing us that a world dominated by technology is completely undesirable.
Fortunately there is still a glimmer of hope in this desperate picture. Like a lone candle shining in darkness, Leonard Mead is starkly distinct. He is inquisitive as he “occasionally picking up a leaf as he passed, examining its skeletal pattern.
” This is compared to the others who remain indifferent to whatever is happening in their lives. Mead is also not afraid to be different as he walks alone, startling the other people shut away in houses. He is imaginative, describing the daytime traffic as “a great insect rustling” and the cars as “scarab beetles”. Most prominently, he still retains individuality, the most important trait humans have. This is contrasted with the other, comatose, inhabitants who, without objection, conform to a society controlled by technology.All these characteristics infer that Mead is the representative of all that is human. However, his loneliness implies that true human nature is on the brink of extinction as technology has been allowed to eat away at everyone’s lives. As Leonard Mead continues to walk through the streets, he is suddenly stopped by a computerised police car.
If Mead is the representative of humanity, the car is the representative of technology. Straight away we see that the car does not understand some of Mead’s actions, such as why he walks for relaxation.This is because the car can only analyse situations logically. It does not understand that some parts of human beings are solely emotional and not rational. As the police car talks to Leonard Mead, “information, somewhere, was dripping card by punch-slotted card under electric eyes. ” This shows that machines always follow pre-programmed instructions to the letter. The strict conformity to rules consequently prevents technology from ever being emotional or irrational.
Importantly, these two characteristics are integral to what makes us human.Bradbury warns that incorporating technology so fully into our lives will surely bring about disaster as it continuously eradicates our human qualities. At the end of the story, the police car decides to remove Leonard Mead from the city. They pass by his house, “brightly lit” with lights “square and warm in the cool darkness. ” This reflects Leonard Mead’s individuality as it is the only house that is illuminated in the city. It also signifies emotional warmth as a well lit home is far more welcoming than a dark one.Abandoning the house compounds the sad and pessimistic feel to the story’s ending. It represents technology snatching us away from our humanity and independence into the oblivion of robot-like conformity.
With Leonard Mead gone, the city is hollow. There are “no sound” and “no motion”. The city is now merely a shell with “empty river-bed streets” and “empty side-walks”. The last wavering bit of life is squeezed out and murdered by technology. As the police car leads Mead away to a mental asylum to study his “regressive tendencies”, the freezing darkness engulfs him.At long last the lone candle of humanity is extinguished. The city is finally dead. Although it is not explicitly implied in the story, Bradbury’s most significant criticism is in fact on our tendency to conform to society’s trends.
Every time a new technological innovation is created, we immediately strive to include it in our lives. Somehow we feel that our peers will look down on us if we don’t have “the latest and best”. Friends will often ridicule and turn against each other if one of them doesn’t have the most advanced or novel gadgets.
This consumerism only fuels the development of technology. Inevitably, we will lose the ability of independent thought altogether and become just like the inhabitants of the city. Using the story, Bradbury argues that technology is so cold and inhuman it will only diminish our humanity. Instead we should not allow ourselves to be overrun by the urge of consumerism. We must realise that technology can enrich and complement our lives but it must never be the main driving force behind us. “The Pedestrian” is a vision of what could come to being if we ignore this advice.