The Pedestrian Setting
What is the significance of the setting in "The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury?
One important piece of the setting is the fact that the story takes place in the year 2053. That's still the future for current readers, but that date is fast approaching. Bradbury published the story in 1951. That means the setting that he writes about in this story is a setting that he imagines 102 years into the future. For me, the actual date of the setting isn't important. What's important is that the setting is in the future. It's far enough in the future to feel far off, but close enough to serve as a warning to parents and future grandparents.
Bradbury further deepens the setting's familiarity to readers by placing his story in a familiar location. His story doesn't take place on some other planet. "The Pedestrian" takes place in an average, American neighborhood. It's immediately familiar to readers.
The familiarity of the setting is what allows the warning of this story to have such a big impact. People currently enjoy coming home and watching TV at night. I have a dog. I walk her just after eight o'clock every night. I hardly ever see anybody else walking. What I do see is a lot of homes lit up with light from the television screen. Mead's experience is not that weird for me. I teach a media class, and I've been tracking television and media consumption stats for over a decade now. Total media consumption, especially screen time, is still on the rise. The average media consumption time for an American is right around twelve hours per day. That's up about 90 minutes from two years ago. The world that Mead is walking in is a believable world to me, and that is why the setting is significant. Bradbury took what he saw and extended it to an awful conclusion; however, I don't see much evidence to show that Bradbury was wrong.
The setting is significant in a couple of ways. Bradbury's setting is one in which there is no signs of human life around Leonard Mead. He walks on his own, apart from others and away from the conformist world controlled by television and established norms of acceptable behavior. The desert that he envisions is representative of how the setting is one where Leonard is on his own and apart from all other social interactions. It is a setting where Leonard reveres his individuality and uniqueness.
However, it is this very condition of the setting that establishes the conflict. Leonard's conflict with the police is brought on because Leonard's behavior in the setting is unusual. He is seen as a threat because he is fundamentally different from everyone else. In a world where society is conditioned to get married, live in a suburban- like setting, watch television each night and remain inwardly driven, Leonard is an anomaly. The setting reveals that such behavior is not accepted and that it must be removed immediately. Leonard's voice as an individual is eliminated in the setting that Bradbury offers. The Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies is the setting's only answer for people like Leonard. This setting is the basis of the conflict in the Bradbury story.