“The Pedestrian” (1951)
Ray Bradbury, (born August 22, 1920, Waukegan, Illinois, U.S.—died June 5, 2012, Los Angeles, California), American author best known for his highly imaginative short stories and novels that blend a poetic style, nostalgia for childhood, social criticism, and an awareness of the hazards of runaway technology.
As a child, Bradbury loved horror films such as The Phantom of the Opera (1925); the books of L. Frank Baum and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories. Bradbury often told of an encounter with a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932 as a notable influence. Wreathed in static electricity, Mr. Electrico touched the young Bradbury on the nose and said, “Live forever!” The next day, Bradbury returned to the carnival to ask Mr. Electrico’s advice on a magic trick. After Mr. Electrico introduced him to the other performers in the carnival, he told Bradbury that he was a reincarnation of his best friend who died in World War I. Bradbury later wrote, “a few days later I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day.” (From Britannica.com)
“The Pedestrian” Analysis
In some ways a precursor to Bradbury’s more famous novel Fahrenheit 451, this 1951 story is set in a future world in which people sit mindlessly and passively in front of their television sets every evening.
The ‘pedestrian’ of the story’s title is the one man in the city who refuses to do so, and doesn’t even own a television, instead preferring to roam the deserted streets and people-watch.
Discussion Questions for “The Pedestrian”
Describe the setting of “The Pedestrian.” What US city do you think it might be modeled after?
How are elements of dystopian control utilized in “The Pedestrian”? Discuss the effects on the population and human institutions.
How does Leonard Mead meet the criteria for a Dystopian Protagonist?
What purpose does Leonard’s role as an outcast serve? Discuss the descriptive, metaphorical language from the story used to characterize him.
What is ironic about the conclusion?
Mead is taken to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies. What does “regressive” mean?
Why would he be taken there just for walking down the street?