The science fiction short story "The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury tells of a man named Leonard Mead who enjoys taking walks in the evening. However, he is an anomaly, as most people no longer take walks. Instead, they stay inside their darkened houses and watch television. At night the streets are deserted, and the sidewalks are becoming cracked and overgrown due to lack of repair. A robotic police car stops Mead and questions him. When he can give no better answer than that he is a writer and he is walking "for air, and to see, and just to walk," he is taken away to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.
The Cold War is a term that refers to the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union after the close of the Second World War. Internationally, it resulted in a policy of containment through which the United States sought to limit what it perceived as "expansive tendencies" of communism. This containment was attempted by diplomacy and also through military means in battlegrounds, such as Vietnam and Korea. It also resulted in the testing and stockpiling of atomic weaponry.
Domestically, the Cold War manifested primarily in what became known as the Red Scare, a rampant suspicion of communist subversion that brought about an atmosphere of distrust and investigation of those in government positions, education, and the arts, especially the film industry. People were afraid to express themselves for fear of being arrested and tried as communists.
"The Pedestrian" was written in 1950 and published in 1951, in the middle of domestic Cold War paranoia. Bradbury eventually expanded it into the novella The Fireman, and, ultimately, the classic novel Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury related in an interview that its inspiration came about when he and a friend were accosted by policemen in Los Angeles for taking a walk in an area where there were not many pedestrians. It relates to the Cold War as a statement of intellectual freedom and the dangers of compromising this freedom. Bradbury's premise is that when people are no longer allowed the leisure activity of taking a walk, they are no longer free. Freedom is compromised through the overuse of surveillance and the curbing of free speech by baseless accusations.