Ray Bradbury Hates Technology: Analyzing “The Pedestrian”
In the year 2016, technology is part of our everyday lives, but in the future technology will become much more advanced and powerful, and not always in a beneficial manner. In the Ray Bradbury short story “The Pedestrian,” it is the year A.D. 2053 and technology is taking over the world. The main character, Mr. Leonard Mead, has a daily routine that includes walking for hours and miles around a quiet town until he returns to his house at midnight. Throughout the narrative, Bradbury shows through symbolism, setting, and dialogue that technology can take away from nature and the beauty of life itself.
The one thing Mr. Leonard Mead would long to do is to walk for hours along the streets of a “deserted” town. The powerful symbolism helps the reader to understand how strongly the author feels about the subject. The first glimpse of human life other than Mr. Mead is that “Everything went on in the tomblike houses at night now. The tombs, ill-lit by television light, where the people sat like the dead, the gray or multicolored lights touching their faces, but never touching them” (58). The reader learns the author’s point of view when the homes are described as resembling tombs, where people sit motionless just like the dead. It is also implied that the residents living in the houses rarely have contact with other people, other than the people conveyed by television light, which never physically touches them at all. Another example involves how Mr. Mead “put his hand on the door and peered into the back seat, which was a little cell, a little black jail with bars. It smelled of riveted steel. It smelled of harsh antiseptic; it smelled too clean and hard and metallic. There was nothing soft in there” (59). The use of the word “jail” symbolizes the strong connection between technology and the dark, sad life of a prisoner. Using words like “hard,” “antiseptic,” and “metallic,” which do not appeal to the sense of smell or touch, also indicates the disillusioned stance towards technology.
Bradbury’s detailed description of the setting helps the reader visualize the dark and gloomy world bombarded with technology. Through Mr. Leonard Mead’s eyes, we see that, “On his way, he would see the cottages with their dark windows, and it was not unequal to walking through a graveyard where only the faintest glimmers of firefly light appeared in flickers behind the windows. Sudden gray phantoms seemed to manifest upon inner room walls where a curtain was still undrawn against the night, or there were whisperings and murmurs where a window in a tomblike building was still open (56). This description of the town helps the reader visualize the eerie and dark setting of the “abandoned” town, although it is inhabited. It also indicates the bustling life inside the eerie houses, in contrast to the empty streets with only whispering and creepy shadows to show signs of any life at all. While Mr. Mead continues his walk, he indicated that “The cement was vanishing under flowers and grass. In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not one in all that time” (57). The cement not being kept up implies the lack of people actually walking and using the sidewalk. The quote also states that for ten years, Mr. Mead has never met another soul walking outside, which leaves the unnecessary sidewalk to disappear under the grass and dirt.
Today, newspapers and magazines are still somewhat popular and are sold in nearly every supermarket, restaurant, and pharmacy. Through dialogue between the police car and Mr. Leonard Mead, the reader obtains information about the future and how technology has drastically changed the world. Through Mr. Mead, the reader learns that he is a writer but “He hadn’t written in years. Magazines and books didn’t sell anymore. Everything went on in the tomblike houses at night now (58).” The context of the sentence helps imply that the tomblike houses are the television sets. All the information everyone needs to know is broadcasted on the television and there is no need for books, newspapers, or magazines anymore. The reader learns through dialogue between the police car that writing in the year 2053, the police car classifies writing as “Business or profession? I guess you could call me a writer. No profession, said the police car, as if talking to itself” (58). Due to the fact that technology is so widespread, writing is not considered a profession anymore. The police car discounted his profession as if it was not important anymore. Besides the fact that writing is insignificant, the police car finds it odd that Mr. Mead is “Just walking, Mr. Mead Yes. But you haven’t explained for what purpose I explained: for air, and to see, and just to walk” (59). The police car cannot wrap its head around the fact that Mr. Mead walks for air, when there is air conditioning, and that he walks to see, when there is a television that he could view anything he wants without leaving his home.
Bradbury’s short story implies that too much technology can isolate a person from nature and the world. In the end of the story, we learn that Mr. Leonard Mead was taken to a Psychiatric Center for research on Regressive Tendencies by a police car. It is ironic that technology, which is supposed to give someone more freedom and possibilities, took away the one thing Mr. Leonard Mead cherished and looked forward to every day.
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