Ray Bradbury has always been a favourite of mine and often I think of the first of his works I encountered, the short story 'The Pedestrian'. Clear but dark descriptive language coupled with a futuristic emptiness and a strong and likeable character leaves readers saddened and inspired. In an age so flooded with technology you can feel alone in your most human moments, this story encapsulates that feeling of isolation. It's something that reminds me every time I read it that human connection is the most important part of life.
Described as a science fiction horror story, 'The Pedestrian' relies quite heavily on setting. A desolate street and constant television broadcasts surround the strolling character Mr. Leonard Mead. Imagery plays a huge role in building the setting with similes relating to death recurring constantly. 'A tomb-like building', 'through a graveyard', 'The people sat like the dead.' Giving the impression of the desolate, decaying, damaged style of life that has taken over the once bright society. America in this 2052 A.D. world is cold, empty, and soul-less. The reader reacts with sympathy for Leonard Mead, relating to his desire for fresh air, to walk instead of watching television. Fear also comes in for readers, repulsed and stricken by this skeletal world. Ray Bradbury uses simple words to draw up strong images and make an impacting scene in the reader's mind.
Walking through the empty streets is Leonard Mead, with no physical description beyond the puff of cigar smoke before him; readers make what they wish of the lonesome man on the sidewalk. Our limited knowledge of him opens up more opportunities for the audience to relate. Walking alone and talking to houses is considered 'weird' by today's society, as a result of cultivating the notion of 'normal' within society's need for interaction. But in an empty neighbourhood alive only with electricity, talking to houses is quite understandable, especially considering the attitude behind it. "What's up tonight on Channel 4, Channel 7, Channel 9?" His language is borderline bitter, almost showing sympathy for the houses, deprived of human attention. An idea that may seem odd to many readers, but is further explored in another of his short stories, 'There Will Come Soft Rains'.
What Bradbury presents readers with, they may find preposterous, a digital voice from an empty police car. Ridiculous as this may seem to modern audiences, it represents a valid point regarding the progress of technology. After a small argument with the police car, Mr. Mead consents to enter the car, his destination is the 'Psychiatric Centre for Research on Regressive Tendencies.' This sentence brings to light the severity of this futuristic world of technology, in which society seems to shun the very humanity of humans.
Through lonely, unhappy descriptive language, The Pedestrian leaves readers shocked and reeling with the realism of the story, however fantastical as it may have seemed when it was written in 1951, over sixty years ago, for readers in the twenty first century, Bradbury's message hits home as a firm warning within a beautifully handled story. Everything Bradbury describes is quite possible, thus invoking in readers the need to express their individuality; for fear that they could be a zombie before their television.