The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury
In The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury we have the theme of conflict, connection, alienation, control, loneliness and acceptance. Taken from his The Golden Apples of the Sun and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bradbury may be exploring the theme of conflict. Leonard is doing nothing wrong but because of the accepted societal norms that exist in 2053 he is deemed to be potentially regressive by the computerized police car. This may be important as Leonard is doing something that would be considered normal today but in 2053 his walking at night time to get air is not seen as something that is acceptable. If anything Leonard is simply connecting with his environment though again this is deemed to be unusual activity in 2053. There is also a sense that society is under the complete control of those in authority. There is only a need for one police car and everybody remains in their house when it is dark. It is for this reason that Leonard sticks out. It might also be important that Leonard is taken to a psychiatric centre as this would sum up the mentality of those in authority. They cannot see that Leonard may like walking at night time rather they view his actions as regressive.
It might also be significant that Leonard is not deliberately trying to break the law or disturb the status quo. He is simply doing something that he himself would consider to be very normal and which the reader is aware he has been doing for years without incident. This could be important as Bradbury may be suggesting that a machine (police car) will only follow the rules that it has been given and as such because of the possible authoritarian nature of society in 2053. Sees what Leonard is doing as being something wrong. The reader doesn’t doubt that should a human have engaged with Leonard things might have been a little bit different. Leonard may have simply been given a warning by a police officer. In reality machines appear to have absolute control. Not only is there the computerized police car but the viewing screens which keep the streets empty of people may also have absolute control over people. The reader suspecting that all information on the viewing screens is already approved by those in authority. The fact that Leonard looks into the windows of the homes he passes by may also suggest that Leonard longs to connect with others in an attempt to combat the loneliness he feels.
It is also interesting that anytime Leonard has gone for a walk he has never seen another human being. This again might suggest to the reader just how deeply controlled people are by those in authority. Bradbury also through his use of dark and bland colours in the story may be symbolically trying to highlight to the reader the type of life that people are living. If anything 2053 appears to be a world that people have given up on what some critics might suggest is very natural behaviour. Things like going for a walk or trying to get some air are no longer considered to be normal. How people live their lives appears to have changed dramatically. With Leonard being the only exception to the rule. Which might suggest to those in authority that Leonard is not conforming to how they would like things to be. Though again in a present day scenario Leonard’s actions are very normal. It is also possible that Bradbury is suggesting that should an individual transfer power to a machine things that were once considered simple and normal will no longer be viewed upon in this manner.
The end of the story is also interesting. Though Leonard protests about what is happening to him. He still obeys every instruction he is given by the computerized police car. It is as though he knows that he has to be compliant as things may turn out worse for him should he disobey the instructions that he has been given. Though it is clear that Leonard is being isolated or alienated from others due to his behaviour. There is also a sense that 2053 is a world of extremities. Leonard is being brought to a psychiatric centre for a simple matter. However those in authority view Leonard’s actions as being something more dangerous. Should more people like Leonard go for walks at night time the status quo that is being imposed on people will change. The fact that there is only one police car and that crime is so low is also interesting as the reader suspects that those who commit crime may have been treated harshly. To ensure that others do not commit a crime. If a simple issue of walking the streets at night leads Leonard to a psychiatric centre the reader can only imagine how severe the punishment might be should someone commit a crime. If anything 2053 appears to be a world in whereby humans have given up control of their lives. Preferring instead to embrace technology.