The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury
The Pedestrian features a lone man walking on a perfectly silent street. He contemplates the people in their homes, all sat glued to their television sets night after night, their lives passing by as they watch shows and movies without really speaking or noticing one another.
The tone isn’t particularly dreary as Leonard Mead, the wandering pedestrian, contentedly observes dozens of families in their natural habitat. He doesn’t seem lonely or even that curious, he is simply taking a walk and drinking in his surroundings for no particular reason with no particular destination.
But then a police car pulls up beside him, demanding to know why he’s out alone. Where’s he going? Where’s he been? Is he married? Is he employed? What’s he doing?
This officer is incredibly wary of Leonard and his aggressive questioning culminates in a swift arrest and a trip to the psychiatric centre. Of course the conclusion to the story is typical Bradbury with its simplistic hyperbole and quaint surrealism, but never before have I been so drawn towards one of his unconcealed plot objectives.
Why is it deemed strange to just go for a walk with no particular destination in mind? To be uninterested in television, families or ‘normal’ employment? The short story is a brilliant example of society’s collective fear of the outsider. To refrain from the norm, as Bradbury illustrates, is almost like having a psychological illness.
That is what I really love about Bradbury’s work: he continuously threw child’s logic at adult issues. His unpolluted arguments were so succinct that it really is impossible to dispute any of them. If only we could all view the world as Ray Bradbury had done, perhaps it would be a less terrifying place.