Regressive Tendencies

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

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mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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?

lmmyette1990 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Pedestrian" is a short science-fiction story by Ray Bradbury, set in the year 2052. It acts as a criticism of technology and progress, as is demonstrated by the treatment of the protagonist, Leonard Mead, and the depiction of society at this time. In this future, the world has become a place obsessed with television; this behavior is viewed as normal. The main regressive tendency that the police take the protagonist Leonard Mead in for revolves around what is considered to be an antiquated or regressive act: walking. The police stop Mead as he is walking alone at night, something that is completely aberrant for anyone to do at this date in the future; everyone is at home watching television. Another regressive tendency that Mead is suggested to have is that he says he is a writer: at this point in society, no one reads anymore, so such a profession is akin to being unemployed, which is precisely what the police jot down as Mead's profession. The final regressive tendency showcased in Mead is found when the police drive by his house: it is the only house on the block that is lit up and inviting. All the other homes are cold and dark shrines dedicated to the consumption of television. Mead rejects the obsessive consumption of television, and this rejection is seen as backwards, old-fashioned, and altogether regressive. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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."