The Pedestrian Short Story Essay Prompt

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The themes of the stories relate to the dangers of technology to society and humanity.

The short story “The Pedestrian” traces familiar ground for Ray Bradbury.  It takes place in a futuristic world where people spend more time in front of their television sets than interacting with each other, and a simple activity like taking a walk is against the law.  Like his novel-length Fahrenheit 451, a lone individual slowly taking a walk outside in the street is unusual and cause for concern.  In this case, the pedestrian is arrested and taken to a mental institution for evaluation because of his “regressive tendencies” of taking a walk instead of watching television.

One of the most important themes of the story is that we need to be wary of technology.  Bradbury’s message is that technology, while designed to make our lives easier, actually threatens our humanity.  Advances like television separate humans instead of bringing them together.  As Leonard Mead walks aimlessly, he describes streets lined with houses illuminated only by the lights from their televisions, with the only sounds coming from either the sets or dim-witted reactions to them.

Was that a murmur of laughter from within a moon-white house? .... 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.

Bradbury warns us that television and the technology it represents can be used to control us, to make us conform.  Our individuality breaks down, and we become vassals.

Another important theme is that our humanity rests in our interaction with people.  As Leonard walks the streets, he notes that no one ever comes out.  No one even looks out.  Their eyes are fixed on the screens.  While the police who stop him ask him if he is married, the marriage seems to exist only for the continuation of the human race, not for human interaction.  Do both spouses interact more with the TV than with each other?  Why do none of them leave their houses?  To truly be happy, people have to be able to communicate and express feelings with each other, not just focus on being entertained by technology.  It is a warning to us all.

  • 1

    How does "The Veldt" challenge our expectations for the roles that parents and children play?

    In this short story, the George and Lydia are replaced by their automated house. This replacement occurs both in the physical - the house cooks, cleans, and provides for the children, as well as in the emotional - the nursery is an outlet for the children where they can express their thoughts and desires. There is no longer a channel of communication, and the family unit breaks down because of that. The answer to this essay question should address these issues as well as compare them to traditional parent/child roles and how they conflict, as well as go on to offer a potential solution to how Bradbury would imagine a productive parent/child relationship.

  • 2

    Because time travel is not possible (at least not currently), what message do you think Bradbury is trying to convey in "A Sound of Thunder" when the death of the butterfly drastically alters the future?

    This essay should delve into Travis' explanation of the importance of staying on the anti-gravity path during their stay in the past, highlighting how he explains the interconnectivity of all living species, both in the past and in the future. Humans today often consider their actions as isolated moments, but perhaps Bradbury wanted us to consider the future repercussions of how we act today. This idea could be applied to a variety of present day issues, such as war and peace in international relations, global warming and environmentalism, and the economic systems that we participate in.

  • 3

    What is the significance of the house reading the Sara Teasdale poem?

    The answer to this question should address the timeline of the poem, articulating that this is the only time that the house directly addresses one of its residents, Mrs. McClellan. Additionally, this is right before the house begins to die and is eventually destroyed. The idea that "Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, if mankind perished utterly," seems to have been proven correct. Not a soul inhabits the house, yet business has continued as usual. Lastly, it is of interest that this is one of Mrs. McClellan's favorite poems.

  • 4

    How did their time in the sun change the children of Venus?

    This answer should discuss how the children looked and acted before their time in the sun (pale, apathetic, and mean). It should talk about their time in the sun as well as their reactions when the rain began to fall again. Lastly, it should discuss how they acted after they returned from the sun, particularly their reaction when they remembered Margot was locked in the closet. The answer should also mention the sun's healing and life giving properties.

  • 5

    What is the significance of the acts of naming and renaming in "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed"?

    The answer to this question should recount the many times that things are named and then renamed in the story. The answer should also connect the action of renaming to recalling memories of home, like the colony's use of the names Roosevelt, Ford, and Rockefeller. Lastly, the answer could connect the centrality of identity to the naming process.

  • 6

    Do you agree with the way the husband and wife spent their last night together in "The Last Night of the World"?  Use textual examples in your critique.

    The answer to this question is largely based on the respondent's personal thoughts and opinions. In addition to the personal thoughts, the answer should include a description of how the family handled their last night. They were calm and did everything as they would normally do it. They did not try to do anything out of the ordinary, which is contrary to the belief that the last moments should be dedicated to something extraordinary.

  • 7

    What do you think draws the monster back to the lighthouse every year?

    The answer to this question could address a variety of possible factors drawing the monster towards the lighthouse. Regardless of how the answer speculates, it should discuss the themes of loneliness and companionship. Additionally, the answer should address why the monster retreats and then comes back annually, even after it realizes that the noise is being emitted from an inanimate object.

  • 8

    What are some ways that our society today is similar to the society described in "The Pedestrian"?

    While our society is not as extreme as the society described, there are some similarities that the answer should detail, such as our attachment to technology and tendency to spend too much time indoors. Many doctors and experts are criticizing our population as a group that spends too much time inside rather than participating in more traditional activities, such as walking, reading, or spending quality time with others. Additionally, this answer should acknowledge the differences alongside the similarities mentioned in the beginning of the answer - we are not as far along in terms of technological advancement.

  • 9

    How does the way someone uses their language affect the comprehension of their message?  Use "I See You Never" in your response.

    An effective answer will combine both a personal experience and the example from "I See You Never." Mr. Rodriguez confuses his diction of "I'll never see you again," and the others around him are unable to effectively understand him. The student should consider times when they tried to communicate with friends or family, but they were unable to express themselves as they wished.

  • 10

    Is censorship a just act?

    This question primarily corresponds to "The Flying Machine," where the inventor of a flying machine is executed because of the potential risks the machine poses to society. The answer to this question should consider the ethical dilemma of technological innovation and how to regulate it, as well as if it should be regulated at all. A good answer to this question should include not only the student's personal reflections on the question, but also specific examples from the short story that back up their opinion.

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