By Ray Bradbury
In a near-future dystopia, a man takes his nightly walk, stopping in front of houses to look at them. He wears soft-soled shoes to avoid being heard by the dog patrols. The air is cold, and the man reflects that he has never encountered another person in the ten years he has been going for these walks.
A police car flashes its lights at him – it is the only one in the town, as the crime rate has decreased so immensely. A voice from the car asks the man for his name – “Leonard Mead.” When he states his profession as “writer,” the car records it as “no profession.” The car orders him to enter it when he explains that he is just walking.
Upon entering the car, Mead realises that it was the car itself talking, and not someone inside it. He is told that he will be sent to the “Psychiatric Centre for Research on Regressive Tendencies,” and as the car drives through the night, Mead recognises his house from the distinctive glow of the lights inside.
Themes and techniques
Bradbury’s text engages with the concept of humanity’s disconnection from the natural world and itself as a result of the proliferation of humanity. Specifically, Bradbury raises concerns with the growing role of the media in creating a culture of isolation and loneliness.
The dominance of technology is reflected through the symbol of the police car, which represents how technology has become an authoritative force. Moreover, the descriptive imagery used as Mead describes the houses as “tombs, ill-lit by television light,” emphasises the role of the media in creating a culture of docile alienation. However, the potential for the world to resist that power is reflected through the imagery “The cement was vanishing under flowers and grass.” Further, the moon is raised as an object of hope, suggested through the clarity with which it appears: “The moon was high and clear among the stars and the houses were gray and silent.”
‘The moon was high and clear among the stars and the houses were gray and silent.’
illusion of hope
‘The tombs, ill-lit by television light’
impact of technology
‘He stood entranced, not unlike a night moth, stunned by the illumination, and then drawn toward it.’
position of police car within society
‘The cement was vanishing under flowers and grass’
changing relationship with nature
‘To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o’clock of a misty evening in November’
creation of eerie setting