Explain Leonard Mead's "regressive tendencies" in The Pedestrian, by Ray Bradbury.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The key word in the legal infraction that Leonard Mead has committed in "The Pedestrian" is regressive. That his actions are perceived as backward and a return to behavior from a past era is, indeed, disturbing to the new culture in which people have become servile to an advanced technology--but not an advanced civilization. Mead is the maverick who must be herded in; he is one who thinks for himself and is, therefore, dangerous. He wants people to return  (regress?) to the social creatures that they once were; he longs for conversation and physical communion with others, an intrinsic human need.

Was that a murmur of laughter from within a moon-white house? He hesitated, but went on when nothing more happened. He stumbled over a particularly uneven section of sidewalk. The cement was vanishing under flowers and grass. In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not once in all

Ironically, then, the dehumanization that results from technology is progressive, but natural human interaction, social interaction, is now perceived as a "regressive tendency." 

mlsldy3's profile pic

mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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The Pedestrian is set in the year 2052. Leonard Mead is an average man. He lives alone. He has no wife, or anybody in his life. All he does is go for walks in the evening.

One night while he is walking, the police stop him. In this time, there is only one police car. The government said that since crime is going down, they only need one car. The police ask Leonard many questions and decide to put him in the car. When he gets into the car, he realizes that no one is driving the car. Everything is automated. He sits in the back seat and finds out they are taking him to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies. The story closes with Leonard passing his house and seeing it all lit up and welcoming. It is the only house that looks that way.

In the short story, Leonard Mead's regressive tendencies are that he walks alone at night. In this society, no one does this. Everyone is watching television and that is all they do. No one buys books, or magazines anymore. They just sit inside and watch television. Since Leonard takes a walk every night, this is seen as a threat. This kind of behavior is not accepted in society. Ray Bradbury had the same theme in most of his works. The theme is when someone is different than the "group" then they are ostracized by everyone else. Though Leonard is harmless and doing nothing wrong, by his taking a walk every night, this is seen as regressive tendency. If he had stayed inside and sat in front of a television then he would have been seen as normal. Ray Bradbury makes a point of asking, what is really normal?