Will Leonard Mead walk his city's streets again in "The Pedestrian"?

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Having been taken to the “Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies” for his supposedly aberrant behavior, it is doubtful that Leonard Mead will walk the streets again.

Ray Bradbury, the author of "The Pedestrian," often writes about how certain ideas are dangerous to a totalitarian government, and for this reason, books are banned or, at least, no longer read. In this short story, there is a similar motif as the culture of Mead's society seems to discourage reading. (Mead was a writer and now has no job.)

Instead of reading, people engage in the senseless and private worship of the television set as a means of subduing independent thought. During the day, they speed to and from work, seeing nothing but the road and a blurry landscape. They do not walk outside as does Leonard Mead, nor do they talk to their neighbors; there is no social interaction at all. This kind of interaction with other people is what Mead craves, as is demonstrated by his leaning over and peering into the dark windows and pretending to talk to other people.

"Hello, in there," he whispered to every house on every side as he moved. "What's up tonight on Channel 4, Channel 7, Channel 9? Where are the cowboys rushing, and do I see the United States Cavalry over the next hill to the rescue?" 

This compelling need of Leonard Mead's to communicate with others and to find meaning in his life by exchanging his thoughts and observations are his "Regressive Tendencies." The need to communicate is essential to Mead because, for this writer, meaning in his life depends upon the basic human need to share feelings and ideas with others. It is a need that is intrinsic to Mead; for him, there is no therapy, no cure that can be effective.

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Leonard Mead will likely never walk the streets of his city again after his stay in the reeducation center.

The Pedestrian Leonard Mead does not fit well into his society.  For one thing, walking the empty streets at night is what he “most dearly loved to do.”  Everyone else stays inside watching television.  Their houses are dark, their voices are silenced.  He alone walks the streets at night, enjoying the uneasy peace of being the only person in the city willing to do so.

Walking the streets is safe because there is no crime.  Everyone stays indoors.  Unfortunately for Leonard, the downside to this is that walking around outside is suspicious behavior.  When the city’s one police car finds him, he is doomed.  He has no legitimate explanation for doing so.  They can’t imagine walking for enjoyment.

"Just walking, Mr. Mead?"


 "But you haven't explained for what


 "I explained; for air, and to see, and just to


 "Have you done this often?"

 "Every night for years."

Leonard is taken to the “Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies,” because walking demonstrates regressive (backward) behavior.  He does not fit in, therefore he is dangerous.  It sounds like he is being taken away to be brainwashed.

Even if Leonard is released, he will never be the same.  Once the doctors have gotten him, he will be just like everyone else.  The story ends on an ominous note, with empty streets and a November night.  Only Leonard’s house is warm and bright, but not for long.

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Do you think Leonard Mead from "The Pedestrian" will ever again walk his city street?  

Unfortunately, I think when the robot police car takes Leonard Mead to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies, they will re-indoctrinate him to the ways of the mind-less society he has managed to avoid for some time. Mr. Mead, according to society, has regressed in his thinking and behavior.  However, because there is a place to reprogram the citizens of this society, it suggests that people can defy the status quo of locking themselves up in their homes and watching television for hours.  Although it is possible that Mead will shake off the effects of the brainwashing, it may take a while for him to regain his zest for life walking and observing the “dead” society around him.  It is a sad prospect for Mr. Mead who lost his job as a writer when the society became obsessed with television.  I don’t think his future looks very bright unless he is so unique as to defy the “treatments” he will receive by the psychiatrists. His final goodbye to his home as he passes it in the police car suggests that he is trying to memorize it so he will not forget who he once was. 

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Do you think Leonard Mead will ever again walk his city's streets? 

The authorities in this story are very strict and this is reminiscent of Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451. Mead is charged with walking for the sake of walking. In this state, there is only one police car left because crime has become virtually nonexistent.

Note that Mead has walked the city streets at night and has never seen another person. In this society, people go to work, go home, watch television, go to sleep, and then repeat the process. This is the status quo. The narrator even refers to the houses as tombs. These people are forced and/or brainwashed to work and then go to their cells/tombs (homes). At the very least, Mead wants the freedom to leave his tomb and go for a walk. He is arrested and taken to a psychiatric ward because he threatens this status quo.

If the authorities are as strict as they appear to be, they might keep Leonard locked up forever. Remember that he has revealed to them that he's broken the rules for ten years. However, the fact that he has broken the rules for ten years speaks to his defiance of the law and his intellectual desire to challenge the laws he perceives as ridiculous. Leonard might be similarly defiant when questions by the psychiatrists and that would keep him locked up indefinitely. Or, Leonard might take a more devious strategy and say he was misguided and will never walk at night again. If he can trick the authorities into believing that he will become an obedient citizen like the rest, they might let him go. Then he would be free to walk the streets again. He would just have to avoid that sole police car. 

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