A Pedestrian Accident Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A postmodern story in the absurdist tradition, “A Pedestrian Accident” recounts a nonsensical story about a man who has been run over by a six-wheel truck. After the accident, the man, Paul, remains conscious and is aware of what is going on around him within his range of vision. Even after the truck backs over him again and then pulls forward so that his body is mangled and torn, Paul remains conscious. Alternative explanations are that he is dead, but still able to observe real events taking place around him; that he is not dead but fantasizing; or that he is dead and removed to another level of reality just as “real” as the experiential world, but different from it. In postmodernist fiction, it is not necessary that choices be made. A reader simply accepts the absurd situation as it is given in a hypothetical world whose dimensions are different from those of the real world. Whatever the dimensions of an author’s “made” world, one is dealing with storified experience, in fact not any different from all other “stories” that have been created by storytellers from prehistoric times to the present. Thus, a story written in this mode has the same kind of validity as stories written or told long ago that have passed into history as myths, legends, or reputedly factual accounts. A story is a created experience, whether it is about the girl next door who had a date with the football hero or about Cinderella and her Prince Charming. Consequently, a story about a man who should be dead witnessing an absurd burlesque being acted out before him can have as much meaning as a biblical account of miracles accomplished, for example, by Paul, Jesus’s apostle.

The events that take place around the Paul of “A Pedestrian Accident” seem to be parts of a burlesque, a vaudeville show, or a Punch and Judy puppet show. The truck driver, with his rolling body and his little hands flying wildly about, thrusts himself in and out of the cab window as if he is being controlled by the strings of a puppeteer. The driver’s words, which become a refrain repeated...

(The entire section is 846 words.)