A Nightmare of the Future: Descriptive Imagery in “the Pedestrian”

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“The Pedestrian” is set in a future where a man can be arrested for taking an evening stroll. The story is Ray Bradbury’s warning of what the future might hold for us, living in a world inundated by technology. America in 2054 is a conformist hell, where only those who conform survive (Amis 68). The inhabitants are dead, lifeless, living only to work and watch TV. Through descriptive imagery that evokes spellbinding power, ruthlessness, and death, Bradbury denounces technology as dangerous and dehumanizing, destroying our individuality and free will. Automobiles are one aspect of technology that is attacked as a destroyer of individuality. The highways are crowded only during the day, drivers hurrying from home to work and back again in an endless surge of repetitive motion. The noise they make is described as “a giant insect rustling,” bringing to mind images of mindless insects, responding only to some stimulus (Bradbury 20). Cars are also described as scarabs, an ancient Egyptian symbol of magical power; this image suggests the hold over us that the automobile has. It is portrayed as a device to suppress free will instead of allowing the freedom of travel.

The dangerous potential of technology is further suggested by the portrayal of the police. The police car that catches the protagonist, Leonard Mead, in the suspicious act of taking an evening stroll is fully automated, powered not by a man but a machine. This robot-car is programmed to be insulting and accusatory, showing no compassion or mercy. When it questions Mead, it is extremely rude:

Police car: “Business or profession?”
Mead: “I’d guess you’d call me a writer.”
Police car: “No profession.”
The car then asks Mead to explain why he was out walking.
Mead: “Walking for air. Walking to see.”
Police Car: “ . . . And there is air in your home, you have an air conditioner, Mr. Mead?” (21)
Humans can be compassionate and merciful, and...
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