The Pedestrian

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Utopia and dystopia:
Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Pedestrian”

Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Pedestrian” is a dramatic illustration of the dangers of living in a world where contact with nature is deemed so abnormal that even walking alone at night is a crime. The dystopian story revolves around the tale of a man named Leonard Mead, living during a time period not so far away from our own, in 2053 CE. In the story, a robotic police car is so suspicious of Mead’s walking behavior during one pleasant night that he is taken away to a psychiatric hospital.

In the new world, desiring televised rather than real experience is considered ‘normal.’ People only venture out during the day when it is required for their work. Otherwise, they remain at home when the sun sets, on nice days and nasty days alike. Robotic police cars patrol the area, but crime is virtually nonexistent given how few people leave their homes.

On the surface, this might seem to suggest that Bradbury’s story is utopian in nature, given the lack of crime and apparent peace enjoyed by the human community. The atmosphere of the story conjures up a sterile, 1950s suburb where everything is perfect, manicured, plastic, and vacant—even of human beings. However, the absence of real, lived experience—the aspects of life that make human existence meaningful and enjoyable—suggests the story’s dystopian nature. The story also questions the concept of normalcy and the value of being normal. What value is there in normalcy if this consigns the individual to a fate of watching television all day and night? In theory, nothing should be as normal and pleasurable as taking a walk. Human beings are physically built to be mobile, not to sit watching television all of the time. But when society as a collective deems what is normal and healthy to be ‘abnormal,’ normalcy is seen as pathological.

Bradbury’s story seems unusually prescient. Today, human beings are less able to walk around suburban...
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