Get notes, line-by-line explanation, summary, questions and answers, critical analysis, word meanings, extras, and pdf of the story “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury, which is part of ICSE Class 10 English (Treasure Chest: A Collection of ICSE Poems and Short Stories). However, the notes should only be treated as references, and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.
The story is set in the year 2053 in a city where Leonard Mead enjoys taking long, solitary evening walks despite the emptiness of the streets. On this November night, Mead walks through the silent city, peering down moonlit avenues and whispering greetings to the darkened houses. The city feels like a graveyard to him, with faint lights flickering behind curtains. Mead has changed to sneakers to avoid bothering any dogs with his footsteps. He checks his watch and wonders what television shows the residents are watching in their tomb-like homes.
As Mead approaches an intersection, he imagines the busy highways during the day now deserted at night. He circles back toward home, stumbling on uneven sidewalk. Just a block away, a lone police car suddenly turns a corner and shines a bright light on him, ordering him to stop. A metallic voice interrogates Mead, asking his name, business, and why he is out walking. Mead explains he is out for air and to see, and that he is a writer though he hasn’t written in years.
The police voice accuses Mead of having no profession and presses him on why he is walking. Mead repeats that he is just walking for exercise and observation. The voice asks for Mead’s address, then whether he has an air conditioner and a television, to which Mead answers yes and no. When asked if he is married, Mead smiles and says no one wanted him.
He is ordered into the police car. Mead protests his innocence but compiles. He realises there is no one inside the vehicle, which is remotely controlled. The car informs Mead he is being taken to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies. As they drive past Mead’s own illuminated house, he points it out, but receives no response. The empty police car continues on, leaving the silent streets behind.
About the author
Ray Bradbury was a renowned 20th century American author known for his creative works in genres like science fiction, fantasy, and horror. His short story ‘The Pedestrian’ depicts a dystopian future where even going for a solitary walk is seen as abnormal.
The protagonist Mead is detained and sent to an asylum simply for walking alone one night, which is now considered regressive behaviour in this isolated, technology-obsessed society. Bradbury uses this narrative as a cautionary tale, warning readers about the dangers of increasingly disconnected and self-absorbed lives.
The story serves as a prophetic call for the importance of community and human connection.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
(i) The story ‘The Pedestrial’ belongs to which genre ?
A. romance B. fantasy C. horror D. futuristic
Answer: D. futuristic
(ii) In which month of the year is it set ?
A. November B. January C. December D. September
Answer: A. November
(iii) Which year of the future is the plot of the story set in ?
A. 2019 B. 2035 C. 2053 D. 2083
Answer: C. 2053
(iv) What do the houses of the people in their homes look like?
A. tombs B. huts C. palatial D. ugly
Answer: A. tombs
(v) Why had Mead worn sneakers while walking ?
A. They were smart. B. He liked wearing them. C. They were comfortable. D. They would not make a noise and attract attention.
Answer: D. They would not make a noise and attract attention.
(vi) How do the people glued to their television sets look to the protagonist?
A. lively B. romantic C. angelic D. phantoms
Answer: D. phantoms
(vii) The metallic cars have a ………… sound.
A. musical B. whistling C. harsh D. mesmerising
Answer: C. harsh
(viii) People driving in their cars during day are compared to
A. insects B. robots C. birds D. phantoms
Answer: A. insects
(ix) What does the story focus on ?
A. Laudable advancement of science and technology B. dehumanization of the people C. necessity of entertainment D. none of the above
Answer: B. dehumanization of the people
(x) Who is in the car ?
A. a policeman B. A police officer C. a computer engineer D. no one
Answer: B. A police officer
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, but it really made no difference.
(i) Who is ‘he’ referred to ? What was the routine of the person?
Answer: ‘He’ refers to Leonard Mead, the protagonist of the story. His routine was to take solitary evening walks peering down the empty moonlit sidewalks and avenues, deciding which way to go.
(ii) Which time and month of the year does the passage describe ?
Answer: The passage describes the time as evening, around 8 pm in the month of November.
(iii) Why does the author say ‘it really made no difference’ ?
Answer: The author says it really made no difference which way Leonard chose to walk because the streets were all deserted and empty at that hour.
(iv) What would fascinate the solitary walker ?
Answer: The sight of the empty, moonlit streets and avenues would fascinate the solitary walker, Leonard Mead.
(v) Who would accompany the walker in the open ? Why ?
Answer: No one would accompany the walker in the open. He was all alone as it was late evening and everyone else was indoors.
Sudden gray phantom 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 tomblike building was still open.
(i) What are the gray phantoms ? Why are they so called here?
Answer: The gray phantoms are the indistinct shapes of people inside their homes visible through partly open curtains or windows. They are called phantoms because they seem ghostly and unreal.
(ii) Where would be see the grey phantoms?
Answer: Leonard Mead would see the grey phantoms on the inside walls of people’s homes where a curtain was still undrawn or a window left open.
(iii) Why are the houses tomblike? What kind of picture is this?
Answer: The houses are called tomblike because they are dark and lifeless with the occupants being like ghosts inside. This creates a grim, depressing picture.
(iv) What was walking past the houses feel like ?
Answer: Walking past the dark, tomblike houses felt like walking through a graveyard for Leonard Mead.
(v) What kind of life is hinted at here?
Answer: A lifeless, depressing existence cut off from nature and meaningful social connections is hinted at here.
There was a good crystal frost in the air; it cut the nose and made the lungs blaze like a Christmas tree inside, you could feel the cold light going on and off, all the branches filled with invisible snow.
(i) What time of the day does the passage indicate ? How do you know?
Answer: The passage indicates evening time. We know this from the reference to ‘good crystal frost in the air’ and the light ‘going on and off’.
(ii) What kind of experience does the speaker tell? Explain the image lungs blaze like a Christmas tree inside.
Answer: The speaker describes the experience of breathing in the cold frosty air that stings his nose and makes his lungs feel like they are ablaze and glowing inside his body, like a lit up Christmas tree.
(iii) How did the speaker react to the scenery outside ?
Answer: The speaker, Leonard Mead, reacted with enjoyment and appreciation to the scenery outside on his walk.
(iv) What do you learn about the speaker from this extract ?
Answer: From this extract we learn that the speaker is observant and receptive to the sights, sounds and sensations of nature during his walk outside in the evening.
(v) Explain the image ‘all the branches filled with invisible snow.’
Answer: This image refers to the speaker’s lungs that feel like a Christmas tree filled with cold, frosty air. The branches are the air passageways filled with the icy air that is like invisible snow.
The street was silent and long and empty, with only his shadow moving like the shadow of a hawk in midcountry. If he closed his eyes and stood very still, frozen, he could imagine himself upon the centre of a plain, a wintry, windless Arizona desert with no house, in a thousand miles, and only dry river beds, the streets, for company.
(i) What kind of picture does the speaker present here?
Answer: The speaker presents a picture of a silent, empty, and deserted street on which his shadow moves like a hawk’s shadow.
(ii) Who does the speaker compare himself with ? How and to what purpose ?
Answer: The speaker compares himself to a hawk. He says if he stood very still, he could imagine himself to be a hawk in mid-flight over a desert, solitary and free. The comparison shows how alone yet self-contained he feels.
(iii) What kind of person is the speaker ?
Answer: From the passage, we can infer that the speaker is a loner who values solitude and imagination. He does not feel lonely but rather seems to enjoy being alone with his thoughts.
(iv) Where is the speaker wandering? Why does he mention Arizona ?
Answer: The speaker is wandering the empty streets of the city he lives in. He imagines and mentions Arizona to emphasize the desert-like desolation of the streets at night.
(v) Who encounters him later in the context, and why ?
Answer: Later in the story, the robotic police car encounters Leonard Mead to interrogate him for his habit of solitary nighttime strolls which are considered non-conformist.
“What is it now?” he asked the houses, noticing his wrist watch ? Eight-thirty P.M. ? Time for a dozen assorted murders ? A quiz ? A revue ? A comedian falling off the stage ?”
(i) Who is the speaker in this context ? Who are the listeners ?
Answer: The speaker in this context is Leonard Mead. The listeners are the houses he is walking past, whose occupants are all inside glued to their television sets.
(ii) Are the murders so frequent ? Why does the speaker ask about the murders ?
Answer: No, the murders are not actually so frequent. The speaker rhetorically asks about the murders to comment sarcastically on the docile population’s preference for such violent televised entertainment.
(iii) What is a revue ? Where would the revue take place ?
Answer: A revue is a multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that consists of sketches, songs, and dances. The speaker imagines it would be televised and watched in people’s homes.
(iv) What makes the speaker ask these questions? Is he satisfied with their answers?
Answer: The speaker asks these rhetorical questions in a sardonic way to critique the passive, television-addicted populace he observes. Since no one actually replies, he is dissatisfied by the lack of human vitality.
(v) What kind of life is lived by people in the city ?
Answer: According to the speaker, the people in the city live monotonous, conformist lives lacking spontaneity and contact with nature. Their only entertainment is television.
He turned back on a side street, circling around toward his home. He was with a block of his destination when the lone car turned a corner quite suddenly and flashed a fierce white cone of light upon him. He stood entranced, not unlike a night moth, stunned by the illumination, and then drawn toward it ?
(i) Where was the speaker when he was asked to stop ?
Answer: The speaker was within a block of his home, returning from his nightly walk when a car suddenly turned the corner and flashed a bright light on him.
(ii) Why do you think was the speaker stopped and by whom?
Answer: I think the speaker was stopped by the police, as his solitary nighttime stroll was considered suspicious and abnormal behaviour.
(iii) What led to his being stunned?
Answer: The sudden bright cone of light flashed on him from the police car stunned Leonard Mead.
(iv) What was his reaction when he was asked to stop ?
Answer: When asked to stop, Leonard Mead stood entranced and frozen, unable to move, like a moth stunned by a bright light.
(v) Who do you think was in the car ? What kind of light fell on the speaker ?
Answer: I think it was a police car with some kind of powerful spotlight that was trained on Leonard Mead.
Ever since a year ago, 2052, the election year, the force had been cut down from three cars to one. Crime was ebbing, there was no need now for the police, save for this one lone car wandering and wandering empty streets.
(i) Which event that took place in 2052 does the story refer do ?
Answer: The story refers to the election year of 2052 when the police force was reduced from three cars to one.
(ii) Why had the police force been reduced ?
Answer: The police force was reduced because crime rates were decreasing, so there was less need for active policing.
(iii) What does the passage hint at about activities of the people at night?
Answer: The passage hints that people were largely inactive and homebound at night, passively watching television.
(iv) Earlier the speaker says that seeing a car wandering at night is an incredible thing. How ?
Answer: It was incredible because the streets were generally totally empty and deserted at night, so a moving car was an anomaly.
(v) Which first question is the speaker asked by the car ? What kind of car is it?
Answer: The first question asked is about the speaker’s name. It is a robotic police car without any human occupants.
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. There was nothing soft there.
(i) What did the back seat look like?
Answer: The back seat looked like a little black jail cell with bars, small and cramped.
(ii) The speaker says that the back seat smelt of harsh antiseptic. What does he want to convey ?
Answer: By describing the harsh antiseptic smell, the speaker wants to convey the inhuman, sterile feel of the police car’s interior.
(iii) Explain: ‘There was nothing soft there’.
Answer: This means the interior was rigid, metallic and inhospitable with no comforts or concessions made for a human passenger.
(iv) Who was driving the car ? Where was the speaker being taken?
Answer: The car was driverless, being remotely operated. The speaker was being taken to a psychiatric research center.
(v) Why do you think was the speaker taken in the car ? What crime had he committed?
Answer: I think he was taken because the police deemed his solitary nighttime walks as eccentric and criminal non-conformist behavior that needed to be corrected. He had not committed any tangible crime.
Additional/Extra questions and answers
1. Why are there no people outside at night in the world Bradbury describes?
Answer: In the world that Bradbury describes, people are not seen outside at night because they are all inside their homes, engaged with their televisions. The streets are described as empty and silent, similar to a graveyard. Leonard Mead, the protagonist, notes that in his ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he has never met another person walking. This suggests that the society has become isolated and disengaged, preferring the artificial interaction provided by television to real human connection.
2. Why does Leonard Mead wear sneakers for his night walks?
Answer: Leonard Mead wears sneakers when he goes for his night walks because the dogs in intermittent squads would bark if he wore hard heels. Sneakers also prevent lights from clicking on and faces from appearing, thus avoiding startling an entire street by his lone presence.
22. What is the irony in Leonard Mead being taken to the “Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies”?
Answer: The irony lies in the fact that Leonard Mead, who seems to be one of the few individuals retaining human qualities like curiosity and the desire for social interaction, is considered “regressive,” while the rest of society, which has become isolated and emotionally vacant, is considered “normal.”
1. Why does Leonard Mead wear sneakers during his night walks?
A. To run faster B. To avoid barking from dogs C. To look fashionable D. To keep his feet warm
Answer: B. To avoid barking from dogs
25. What does Leonard Mead say he is walking for?
A. Exercise B. Fresh air and to see C. Socializing D. Work
Answer: B. Fresh air and to see
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