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Assessment of Ray Bradbury’s Work: The Pedestrian, A Sound of Thunder And Embroidery

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Ray Bradbury

Read The Pedestrian, A sound of Thunder and Embroidery. What image of the future does Bradbury portray?

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In my opinion in these three stories Ray Bradbury’s view of the future paints a very bleak and depressing picture. By disturbing his readers with his stories and views he encourages people to be challenged about the way society is changing and what may happen as a result of the way technology is advancing. Reading Bradbury’s stories gives us an insight into how technology uncontrolled can devastate our lives and lead to humanity becoming secondary in importance.

In ‘The Pedestrian’, ‘Leonard Mead’ Bradbury’s main character is seen going out for a walk on a November evening. He is the only person out as everyone else in this story set in 2053, is sat in their own houses like robots addicted to the television. People were not individuals any more, reading books and magazines had ceased as technology had taken over. Bradbury uses the image of death a lot in this story including using the time setting of winter time, everything being cold and dark.

“And on his way he would 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.” (The Pedestrian)

Bradbury writes about walking as if in a graveyard and the houses being like tombs. People are hiding behind the walls of their homes like zombies. This has been happening for years with no difference. ‘Mead’ has for the past ten years gone out for a walk every evening and never met anyone before. He walks past one house and thinks he may hear the sound of laughter, but then moves on because he hears nothing more.

Bradbury portrays ‘Mead’ being as an ‘alien’ in a strange land. He appears to want to live a different kind of lifestyle to the rest of the society he is living in. ‘Mead’ seems like he is the last vestige of humanity in a society of soulless people. He would like some company and to have interaction with other people. However, in this view of the future none is forthcoming and isolation and desolation are all around. Nobody is out on the streets, people are not leaving their homes and the highways are empty at night even though during the day everywhere was a mass of busyness and activity.

“During the day it was a thunderous surge of cars, the gas stations open, and a great insect rustling and a ceaseless jockeying for position as the scarab-beetles, a faint incense puttering from the exhausts, skimmed homeward to the far directions. But now these highways, too, were like streams in a dry season, all stone and bed and moon radiance. (The Pedestrian)

Technological progress has become so much a part of the world in 2053 that humanity isn’t even needed in policing in the city as is shown in ‘Meads’ interaction with the police. He has a conversation with and subsequently is arrested by a driverless computerised car. The car portrays the advancements of the age; it is a robot speaking with a ‘metallic’, ‘phonograph’ voice, emphasising the impersonal emotional coldness and harshness of the age. In this glimpse of the future it is not understood why someone would want to be out just going for a walk, wanting to get some fresh air on an evening. Bradbury’s view is that things have become very negative, remote and cut off from normality that somebody could be arrested just for being out of their home going for a walk at night.

In ‘Embroidery’ it seems that Bradbury uses the story to make a political statement about the destruction of civilisation by a nuclear explosion. This story was written in 1951, shortly after the end of WW2 and at a time when this sort of catastrophe was very much in people’s minds. Bradbury uses the fear that people have regarding nuclear warfare and the end of the world to get across a message about how things could be in the future. The women in the story are acting as though this thing is inevitable and that there is nothing that they can do about it but sit and wait.

The word picture painted at the beginning of the story is a domestic scene which could have been taken from any day of that era. The women sitting as a group sewing, talking and reminiscing about the past. However they do seem to be aware of impending doom. The story indicates that these ‘experiments’ have happened before, but that this time it is different and the outcome is not known. Bradbury’s story leaves the reader feeling that if nuclear experimentation in this way occurs the experiments could get bigger and bigger just to see what might happen, until they got out of hand. But that the general public would be powerless to do anything to stop them.

“And they’re not sure what it’ll do to anything, really, when it happens?”

“No, not sure.”

“Why didn’t we stop them before it got this far and this big?”

“It’s twice as big as ever before. No, ten times, maybe a thousand.”

This isn’t like the first one or the dozen later ones. This is different. No body knows what it might do when it comes.” (Embroidery)

Bradbury builds an image that society has made no effort to try and stop the destruction. As the women said, “Why didn’t we stop them before it got this far and this big?” Highlighted is the fact that society has also failed to prevent this from happening. From their talk we see that the women place some sort of blame upon themselves, despite the fact they were likely never directly involved. But he also indicates that people’s apathy is due to the fact that they don’t think they have a choice but to accept it. ‘Modernity’ is tunnelling on, regardless of the consequences.

The future according to Bradbury in ‘A sound of thunder’ set in 2055 is very different to life of today. In this story of the future money and technology are the main influences in the world, with Bradbury indicating that the fragile state of the world can be changed by those who have the money to pay for what they want.

…he put his hand slowly out upon the air, and in that hand waved a check for ten thousand dollars….

…I’ll pay anything. A hundred thousand dollars… (The Sound of Thunder)

In this story technology is used to travel back in time and the chosen era is prehistoric with the main aim being to hunt dinosaurs. It seems very far- fetched and unbelievable.

In the story Bradbury acknowledges that the world is fragile and the balance of nature could easily be damaged and the course of the world changed in a big way by something seemingly small and insignificant happening. Yet at the same time power and money have the final say. Down to time travel people can go back to an era before man was even existent on the earth to hunt long extinct animals for fun.

The main thing that Bradbury shows in all three of these stories about the future is that we have a lack of knowledge, that nobody knows what affect the things we do and the changes we make in technological advancements will ultimately have on society.

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