Do you think Leonard Mead will ever again walk his city's streets in "The Pedestrian"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Having been taken to the “Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies” for his supposedly aberrant behavior, it is doubtful that Leonard Mead will walk the streets again.

Ray Bradbury, the author of "The Pedestrian," often writes about how certain ideas are dangerous to a totalitarian government, and for this reason, books are banned or, at least, no longer read. In this short story, there is a similar motif as the culture of Mead's society seems to discourage reading. (Mead was a writer and now has no job.)

Instead of reading, people engage in the senseless and private worship of the television set as a means of subduing independent thought. During the day, they speed to and from work, seeing nothing but the road and a blurry landscape. They do not walk outside as does Leonard Mead, nor do they talk to their neighbors; there is no social interaction at all. This kind of interaction with other people is what Mead craves, as is demonstrated by his leaning over and peering into the dark windows and pretending to talk to other people.

"Hello, in there," he whispered to every house on every side as he moved. "What's up tonight on Channel 4, Channel 7, Channel 9? Where are the cowboys rushing, and do I see the United States Cavalry over the next hill to the rescue?" 

This compelling need of Leonard Mead's to communicate with others and to find meaning in his life by exchanging his thoughts and observations are his "Regressive Tendencies." The need to communicate is essential to Mead because, for this writer, meaning in his life depends upon the basic human need to share feelings and ideas with others. It is a need that is intrinsic to Mead; for him, there is no therapy, no cure that can be effective.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Leonard Mead will likely never walk the streets of his city again after his stay in the reeducation center.

The Pedestrian Leonard Mead does not fit well into his society.  For one thing, walking the empty streets at night is what he “most dearly loved to do.”  Everyone else stays inside watching television.  Their houses are dark, their voices are silenced.  He alone walks the streets at night, enjoying the uneasy peace of being the only person in the city willing to do so.

Walking the streets is safe because there is no crime.  Everyone stays indoors.  Unfortunately for Leonard, the downside to this is that walking around outside is suspicious behavior.  When the city’s one police car finds him, he is doomed.  He has no legitimate explanation for doing so.  They can’t imagine walking for enjoyment.

"Just walking, Mr. Mead?"

 "Yes."

 "But you haven't explained for what

purpose."

 "I explained; for air, and to see, and just to

walk."

 "Have you done this often?"

 "Every night for years."

Leonard is taken to the “Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies,” because walking demonstrates regressive (backward) behavior.  He does not fit in, therefore he is dangerous.  It sounds like he is being taken away to be brainwashed.

Even if Leonard is released, he will never be the same.  Once the doctors have gotten him, he will be just like everyone else.  The story ends on an ominous note, with empty streets and a November night.  Only Leonard’s house is warm and bright, but not for long.