What techniques or imagery does Ray Bradbury use in his short story "The Pedestrian," and how does the story link to the context of utopia?
In "The Pedestrian," Ray Bradbury creates the atmosphere of a cemetery by employing the imagery of an old graveyard with ghosts in the moonlight.
The solitary pedestrian, Mr. Leonard Mead, walks alone outside the dark houses at night, stepping on sidewalks that have "buckling concrete" and grass growing in the spaces between the sections in much the same way that the grass sprouts around old tombstones. These "avenues of sidewalk" are lighted only by the moon. As Mr. Mead traverses the abandoned sidewalks, he bends and peers into dark windows. What he sees is
...not unequal to walking through a graveyard where only the faintest glimmers of firefly light appeared in flickers behind the windows.
"Sudden gray phantoms" appear on the inner walls of the houses if the curtains have been left open, and Mr. Mead is able to witness the residents as they watch their television sets in what appear to be "tomblike" buildings. There is no activity outside except for Mr. Mead's solitary trek. Everything else occurs inside the "tomblike houses" that are illuminated only by the dim grey lights emanating from the television sets. Even the police car that pulls up to Leonard Mead is ghostly in its absence of life; only a computerized voice speaks to Mead.
With the use of imagery, Bradbury creates a nightmarish world inhabited by the ghostly shadows of human beings whose lives are controlled by mechanisms. The only real life is that exhibited by the lonely Mr. Leonard Mead, who is arrested for engaging in what has always been a natural human activity. Thus, this depiction of a graveyard town is anything but utopian.
One very effective example of imagery that Bradbury uses in this excellent short story is the description of those who, unlike Leonard Mead, his protagonist, are still inside at night. In this future dystopian world, people have become such slaves to their TV screens that nobody exits the house at night, and it is considered very strange to do so. Yet note how the people that Leonard Mead sees inside their houses as he walks at night are described:
Suddenly grey phantoms seemed to manifest upon inner room walls where a curtain was still undrawn against the night, or there were whisperings and murmurs where a window in a tomb-like building was still open.
Even though it is he who is considered odd and somewhat bizarre, the people who stay inside their houses are described as if they are dead, or at least ghostly phantoms. Note how the people he sees through the window are characterises as "grey phantoms" and the buildings in which they live are "tomb-like," emitting ghostly "whisperings and murmurs." The onomatopoeia in these words serves to create a supernatural, spooky feel. The irony is clear: whilst Leonard Mead is judged as being inhuman for wanting to walk at night, it is the rest of humans who have become less than human in reality for not wanting to go out and locking themselves in, to their "tomb-like" houses. This is an example of a dystopian text because it paints a perversion of a society where everything has gone wrong, and in exchange for technological advances, humans have sacrificed their own freedoms and identity.
Writers of the twentieth century grappled with the ideas of a future civilization, what it might look like, and what circumstances the citizens of that world could face in a new society. Many of these writers, such as Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ray Bradbury, wrote pieces set in a dystopian world. Where utopia is defined as a society that lives in peace thorough social order and perfect harmony, dystopian societies appear to be utopian at first, but the citizens are controlled by authoritarian regimes through fear or, as in the case of “The Pedestrian,” through future technological advances and societal pressure.
The beauty of Bradbury’s writing lies in his ability to make a small moment in time captivating by appealing to his audience’s senses through elegant prose. He uses figurative language to accomplish this task. In “The Pedestrian,” Bradbury alternates between dark, morbid imagery and allusions to the natural world as they are captured in the unnatural world. As Leonard walks through the neighborhood, he compares the row of houses to a graveyard and the actual houses to tombs. Later, when referring to breathing the cold air, he says it “made the lungs blaze like a Christmas tree inside.” As Leonard is caught by the police car, he describes himself as a “museum specimen, needle thrust through chest.” You will find Fahrenheit 451 to be another excellent example of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian writing.