Critical Analysis of Symbolism in 'The Pedestrian'

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Mankind has made so many advancements and created a lot of developments with innovations like the television. However, as young children plug into the television set instead of enjoying being outside or interacting with one another, some might think about whether we are without a doubt moving forward and progressing or if it is actually creating regression. This idea is put to test in the short story, “The Pedestrian”. The story provides what could be our possible future. The main character feels isolated and lonely due to the fact he is not hooked to technological advancements like everyone else. Ray Bradbury has chosen to make a statement on the consequences of these improvements. To further provide an explanation for the short story, a man named Leonard Mead goes for walks every night by himself. The year is 2053, and Mr. Mead is the only person walking near his home. He never sees any other person out strolling during the many hours that he strolls. He lives by himself and has no wife or family, so it is a tradition for him to walk each and every evening. It is by no means stated explicitly in the story, however, it can be thought that he is the only walker in society. He chooses not to accept the ways of the new world and because of this, he eventually gets arrested and is forced to be dealt with in a clinic because a police officer thinks that something is mentally wrong with him. This is Ray Bradbury’s way of making a statement about the consequences of innovations. In 'The Pedestrian,' it shows how the main character feels isolated and lonely because he is not hooked on technological advancements like everyone else. Ray Bradbury has chosen to make a statement on the effects of these improvements. Through imagery, characterization, and symbolism, he shows that the advancements in technology create isolation and an anti-social society.

The first literary device that is used to elaborate on the theme of isolation and an anti-social society is the use of imagery. Bradbury creates a frightening world filled with the “grey phantoms” of people’s lives that are controlled through the use of technology. Since people are controlled by technology, the author generates this image in his reader's minds that they are just like ghosts. For example, on the first page of the story, the author says, “sudden gray 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”(Bradbury 1). This evidence depicts Meade's view that all the people in the “inner room walls” were thought of as ghosts by Meade. The only real human in the story is Mr. Leonard Mead. That is why the description of a graveyard town is used. Another example of imagery in use is when Meade walks by the cottages and homes. Bradbury uses specific words to help readers have a picture in their heads of what he believes is a “graveyard” neighborhood. This piece of evidence says, “ And on his way, he could see the cottages and homes with their dark windows, and it was not unequal to walking through a graveyard where only the faintest glimmers of firefly light appeared in flickers behind the windows” ( Bradbury 1). When Bradbury says this, it represents how this dystopian society is affected by automation. The imagery used clearly displays his negative view of this new technological era. When he says, “the faintest glimmers of firefly”, he is referring to televisions and how they are creating a “graveyard” feeling because everyone is sucked into them and not interacting with others.

To summarize, the fact that everyone and everything is controlled by the advancements of 2053, Mr. Mead is lonely and feels separate from the rest of his community. In his feeling lonely, he expresses with the use of imagery. Similar to imagery characterization also emotes the same feeling and emotion Mead.

The second way the author uses a literary device is in the form of characterization to elude the theme of technology creating isolation. The way that Mr. Meade is perceived by readers all throughout the story is dispirited. The way that readers can assume that Meade is clearly sorrowful because of this new world of advancements, is through the words that the author uses to express Meade. A perfect example of this is when Bradbury says, “he was alone in this world of A.D. 2053, or as good as alone….” (Bradbury 1). The words displayed in this quote show how this new world makes Meade feel. It is obvious that technology takes a toll on the emotions and feelings of life Mr. Meade. Another way that it is shown that Mead feels alone is when he walks and whispers at the windows of people's houses because he is lonely and everyone else is too busy watching television. The quote says, “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”(Bradbury 1)? Only a lonely person would go from house to house and talk to the house as if they would respond. Due to people watching television he feels isolated and left out which then is what leads him to talk to houses. To sum up, characterization puts more emphasis on how Meade is affected by this advanced world that is taking over his community. In a separate way, symbolism also emphasizes this same theme.

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The last literary device used in “The Pedestrian” to show the theme is symbolism.

Mr. Meade is the largest and most important symbol in this story. Meade doesn’t accept this new society and he does the precise opposite of everyone else which in turn makes him divided from the rest of the people around him. Further, It is the author's notion that people have misplaced their creativity and crave to be original or think. Meade however doesn’t and this is shown when the story says, “ What is it now”, he asked the houses, noticing his watch.” Eight-thirty P.M.? Tim for a dozen assorted murders? A quiz? A revenue? A comedian falling off stage”(Bradbury 1)? This quote is Mead almost being sarcastic towards the people who just watch television. He’s judging them because they are choosing to not interact or use their imagination. In doing this, he ends up dissociating himself from the rest of the people around him. His separating because he realizes how bad technology can be is why he is the biggest symbol in the story.

The next symbol in this story is Leonard’s house. Leonard's house is a symbol of knowledge and realization because it is the only home where it is not lit up by the lights of a television. On the last page of the story it says, “They passed one house on one street a moment later, one house in an entire city of houses that were dark, but this one particular house had all of its electric lights brightly lit, every window a loud yellow illumination, square and warm in the cool darkness” ( Bradbury 4). The fact that Mead`s house was lit up by lights and not dim except for the light of television shows that he is defying the norms of society. In doing this he makes his house a symbol of his defiance. Again, his refusing to try and fit in causes him to be left out of a society which is the theme of this story.

In the story, “The Pedestrian”, written by Ray Bradbury the usage of imagery, characterization, and symbolism as literary devices help acclimate and show the theme of how technology can negatively impact the world through separation and less social interaction. Bradbury being different than everyone else because he did not want to involve himself with technology made him very lonely and isolated. Because he defied social norms, he did become a symbol however, it was a symbol of loss and sadness due to not fitting in.

To conclude, even though technology can be good, it is obvious in this story that all these new advancements create regression, not progression.

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Critical Analysis of Symbolism in ‘The Pedestrian’. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-symbolism-in-the-pedestrian/
“Critical Analysis of Symbolism in ‘The Pedestrian’.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-symbolism-in-the-pedestrian/
Critical Analysis of Symbolism in ‘The Pedestrian’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-symbolism-in-the-pedestrian/> [Accessed 18 Apr. 2024].
Critical Analysis of Symbolism in ‘The Pedestrian’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2024 Apr 18]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/critical-analysis-of-symbolism-in-the-pedestrian/
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