The Pedestrian Theme

What is the overall theme of "The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The themes of the stories relate to the dangers of technology to society and humanity.

The short story “The Pedestrian” traces familiar ground for Ray Bradbury.  It takes place in a futuristic world where people spend more time in front of their television sets than interacting with each other, and a simple activity like taking a walk is against the law.  Like his novel-length Fahrenheit 451, a lone individual slowly taking a walk outside in the street is unusual and cause for concern.  In this case, the pedestrian is arrested and taken to a mental institution for evaluation because of his “regressive tendencies” of taking a walk instead of watching television.

One of the most important themes of the story is that we need to be wary of technology.  Bradbury’s message is that technology, while designed to make our lives easier, actually threatens our humanity.  Advances like television separate humans instead of bringing them together.  As Leonard Mead walks aimlessly, he describes streets lined with houses illuminated only by the lights from their televisions, with the only sounds coming from either the sets or dim-witted reactions to them.

Was that a murmur of laughter from within a moon-white house? .... In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not once in all that time.

Bradbury warns us that television and the technology it represents can be used to control us, to make us conform.  Our individuality breaks down, and we become vassals.

Another important theme is that our humanity rests in our interaction with people.  As Leonard walks the streets, he notes that no one ever comes out.  No one even looks out.  Their eyes are fixed on the screens.  While the police who stop him ask him if he is married, the marriage seems to exist only for the continuation of the human race, not for human interaction.  Do both spouses interact more with the TV than with each other?  Why do none of them leave their houses?  To truly be happy, people have to be able to communicate and express feelings with each other, not just focus on being entertained by technology.  It is a warning to us all.

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