Student Question

Which of these statements apply to Mr. Mead in "The Pedestrian" and why?

  • Feels trapped
  • Questions existing systems
  • Tries to change the system or escape
  • Fails in his intent to change or escape

Expert Answers

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Based on the wording of the question, it seems like explanations need to be provided for the statements that fit with Leonard Mead. Of the four statements, I feel that "feels trapped" is the only one that really applies.

Leonard Mead has been going on his walks for a full decade.

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.

He's alone on all of those walks; therefore, he is also free to make decisions about where he goes and when he comes home. Mead loves it. His nightly walks are incredibly freeing to him.

To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o'clock of a misty evening in November, to put your feet upon that buckling concrete walk, to step over grassy seams and make your way, hands in pockets, through the silences, that was what Mr. Leonard Mead most dearly loved to do. He would stand upon the corner of an intersection and peer down long moonlit avenues of sidewalk in four directions, deciding which way to go. . . 

That all comes to a stop when he is finally found by the one roving police car. He is asked a series of questions, and Mead's answers make him look more and more odd compared to the rest of the population. Eventually, the police car orders Mead to get into the car so it can take him to a psychiatric facility. This is when Mead feels trapped. He realizes that he is no longer in control of his life, and he begins to feel out of control.

He walked like a man suddenly drunk.

He can't choose where to go next. The decision has been made for him. He's essentially forced into the police car, and once in the car, Mead is genuinely trapped in a jail cell.

He put his hand to the door and peered into the back seat, which was a little cell, a little black jail with bars. It smelled of riveted steel. It smelled of harsh antiseptic; it smelled too clean and hard and metallic.

That jail cell of a car will then take Mead to a psychiatric facility where Mead will continue to be trapped.

"Questions existing systems" might apply a little bit to Leonard Mead. I don't think Mead questions the state of the world. He accepts that nobody else goes on nightly walks. He might lament the state of the world, but he doesn't question it. The closest that Mead might come to questioning an entire existing system is when he says, "Wait a minute, I haven't done anything!" and "I protest" against the car's order for him to get in. That's as close as Mead gets to asking a "why"-type question; however, even as he protests, Mead has already accepted the fact that he will get in. That's why he asks where the car will take him even before he gets in the car.

I don't feel that the other two statements apply to Mead. His walks are not his way of "sticking it to the man." They are something that he loves to do, and he isn't trying to convince other people that they should follow his example. He's not trying to change the system, nor is he trying to escape from it. He's been doing his walks for a decade, and he doesn't try to run away and escape from the police car either. If Mead isn't trying to change anything, then he can't fail in his attempt to change anything. You can't fail at something you don't try.

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