Leonard Mead finds himself in conflict with a dystopian society where individuality is met with distrust and contempt.
Written in the 1950s, "The Pedestrian" is a futuristic look at a society which has become so fixated with being entertained by television programming that no one ever leaves home in the evenings. Leonard Mead has spent ten years wandering the streets at night because he enjoys doing so. He reflects that the landscape is like a "graveyard" with families shut up in the "tombs" of their homes, completely consumed with the offerings of their televisions.
Leonard Mead doesn't conform to the expectations of his society, and this puts him in direct conflict with the government, represented by the police who find him alone on this solitary (and seemingly unexplainable) walk. Leonard should be at home like the other citizens, content to be shut up in his own "tomb" to keep the crime rates down. Leonard doesn't mind the isolation but prefers to interact with the natural world. As is often seen in dystopian literature, the natural world is viewed with contempt, and technology in Leonard's world is viewed as supreme.
Since he has dismissed the norms of his society, Leonard Mead is seen as a threat. This is amplified when the police discover that he isn't married, and Leonard contends that he enjoys the air outside his house, not inside it. Unable to allow Leonard to deviate from societal norms and unwilling to accept his explanations of personal preference, Leonard's government takes him into custody and plans to send him to a psychiatric center for research.
The conflict in this story is between humanity and technology. Leonard Mead, the protagonist, clings to old human patterns of walking at night, but everyone else is hidden in their homes watching screens. No one else walks or seems to budge from behind their walls. During the day, people scurry by in their cars, but no one walks or appreciates the outside as Leonard does. He tries to conjure up a scene of an Arizona desert in place of the endless houses he sees before him.
While he is walking, he is arrested by the police, who do not even emerge from their vehicle. The police are suspicious of Leonard because he is a writer—a profession that no longer exists—and he does not have a viewing screen at home. He tries to cling to old ways, but humans in his world have surrendered their humanity and are controlled by technology. They live in technology-controlled houses, and they do not leave the bubbles of their houses or cars. In Leonard's world, technology has taken over.
In Ray Bradbury's short story "The Pedestrian," a writer named Leonard Mead is arrested by an autonomous police car and taken to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies for simply walking outside during the night and enjoying the natural environment. The conflict in the short story can be categorized as a Man vs. Society conflict, where Leonard Mead struggles against the reclusive, technologically-reliant majority, who prefer to remain indoors watching their televisions rather than enjoying the natural environment outside. In Ray Bradbury's future society, the overwhelming majority of humans remain indoors and stare into their television sets every evening. Their homes resemble tombs, and the reclusive citizens are depicted as gray phantoms. Leonard Mead is an outcast in his shallow society and is portrayed as one of the last remaining genuine humans, who appreciates the outdoors and is stimulated by art, nature, and literature. The autonomous police car, which places Leonard under arrest, represents the callous, technologically-reliant society. Leonard's individual values and way of life make him an enemy of the superficial society.
Ray Bradbury's short story "The Pedestrian" focuses on Leonard Mead, a citizen of the futuristic world of 2053 in which people exclusively watch television for entertainment. Over the past ten years, Mead has spent his time walking the empty streets, never encountering another human being there. We learn that he is a writer whose job has been made irrelevant by televisions because no one reads books or magazines anymore.
Mead is stopped by a police car—the single police car in a city of three million people—and because the car does not understand why he would be walking around rather than watching television like the rest of the population, he is detained and brought to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.
The conflict of this short story is between Mead's desire to retain his "old" interests and principles (reading, writing, and existing in the world fully) and the world's agenda to eliminate these things and replace them with non-human things (like television programming). This is a classic tale of man versus society.
In his story The Pedestrian, Ray Bradbury continues to express his fears of humanity losing its "human-ness" in the future. This is a strong element in all of his stories.
One element required for this fear to become a reality is the loss of individuality. "The group" is always right. "The group" sets all of the standards. "The group" has the authority. "The group" will not tolerate deviation from its methods and preferences.
In The Pedestrian, Leonard Meade is different. Everyone else sits at home at night and watches TV, Leonard takes a walk. Everyone else prefers electronic entertainment, Leonard is an author. Leonard, because of his individuality which is what makes him "human", is one of the biggest threats to "The group". Therefore, on this last walk he is detained, arrested and removed.
The conflict is between Leonard and "The group". Between an individual and society.