There is an oddly delightful sensation in being creeped out. Scary movies and Halloween attest to humanity’s preoccupation with the macabre and mysterious. The sensation of goosebumps slowly crawling up one’s arms and neck evokes a mixture of dread and excitement. A good writer channels these feelings without the aid of outside images. His words alone are responsible for painting the dreadful picture. Now, no one does this better than Ray Bradbury in his short story, The Pedestrian.
The Pedestrian – A Summary
A remarkably short, short story, The Pedestrian, is an astonishing six pages long. However, within the few pages, Bradbury creates a devious, over-technologized world. In his futuristic society, technology has asserted complete control. As a result, humanity has no need to go outside. Everything can be attained at the press of a button. For example, husbands and wives sit watching screens all day without the need for personal communication. Furthermore, all outdoor activity has ceased. Yet one fateful night, Leonard Mead is possessed with a whim to take an evening stroll. While out he meets a like-minded neighbor. The two hit it off reminiscing over their lost freedoms. The plot thickens when neighbors are arrested for the crime of walking and Leonard is hunted by the authorities.
Role of Technology and the Natural World
This book is an insightful and nuanced look at the trajectory of modern society. Bradbury does not say that technology is an absolute evil, rather, he simply points out the inherent problems with it. For instance, once the technology becomes predominate it is harder and harder to engage with the outside, tangible world. Screens become more interesting and humanity begins to relate more with machinery than people. His characters remind the reader of the importance of personal relationships rooted in nature. For the natural world informs man of his role as steward and caretaker of the environment. If humanity rejects this intrinsic role then, Bradbury surmises, it will lose itself completely.
Role of Civil Society
The Pedestrian is also an amazing, “what if,” scenario. Bradbury deftly explores the motives of a government bent on controlling its civilian population. He transforms walking into a defiant statement of one’s non-conformity and independence. This perception conjures up thousands of questions in the reader’s mind. For instance, what is the point of a civil society? Is it allowed to make any law it desires? What would the reader do if someone arrested him or her for walking? Suddenly, the reader begins to draw his or her own opinions concerning the meaning of laws, civil society, and authority.
Bradbury’s, The Pedestrian, is utterly haunting. The combination of his skillful manipulation of language and acute assessment of modern culture is striking to behold. It is not an easy, feel good read. His story is penetrating and disturbing. It continues to challenge every generation of readers to think for themselves in order to refrain from sacrificing their humanity to a jungle of tyranny and technology.