Critical essay Fifty-three years from now a writer is taken to a psychiatric centre for help because he was walking along the streets. In this essay I will be considering the image of the future created in this short story by analysing the plot, setting, character and theme.
This short story is about a man called Leonard Mead who goes for a quiet stroll on a misty evening at eight o'clock. He stops at the corner of an intersection, peers down and chooses which route he wants to take. Mr Leonard Mead had done this every night for ten years. Sometimes he would go out and not return until after twelve. The strange thing is that he has not met anybody in the street for the last ten years, but by pure coincidence, the only police car in the city of three million happened to stop him that night. The police car interrogates him as to why he is walking the streets and questions him about his profession and marital status.
The car cannot believe that he is just walking for air and just to see. The car tells Leonard to get in and he does. Mr Mead assumes that he will be taken home but when he is in the car and the doors locked shut he asks where he is being taken, the car he replies 'to the psychiatric centre for research on regressive tendencies'.
Leonard Mead is not a 'normal' person in the way that his neighbours are, because all they do is sit all night with their lazy eyes glued to the television. Leonard is a writer in a non-reading society. People never read books, all they do is watch television and that is probably the reason why he has not met anybody on the streets in the last ten years. Leonard seems to have a critical attitude to all his neighbours being so 'unsociable'. He is considered abnormal by the police car because he does not have a viewing screen and he does not have a wife. The other character in the story is the police car that stops him. The car is a robot car without anybody inside it and it seems to be getting its orders from an outside source.
The story is set in the future in the year 2052 in a city of three million. It is a cold November evening and Leonard Mead is first introduced at eight o'clock. The city seems like a ghost town, even Leonard describes the place as a 'graveyard'. The author introduced Leonard at eight o'clock because it is a time when people are normally outside, so this makes it seem even more obvious that no one is on the streets. The 'buckling concrete walls' and 'grassy seams' give the impression of a wasteland.
The author gives a hint of mystery by rearranging the words at the beginning of the story, he gives the impression that the world is a lonely and cruel place, 'he was alone or as good as alone'. The author also sets the time in November when it is cold so the trail of frosty air increases the eiry feeling. He uses similes to make the neighbourhood seem as if it is dead, 'it was not unlike walking through a graveyard' or 'there were whisperings and murmurs where a window in a tomb like building was still open'. The author makes the neighbours seem as if they are dead because they do not socialise or have interests in the outside world. This gives the impression that the future will be bleak and the general populations are acting like zombies.
'For long ago he had wisely changed to sneakers when strolling, because the dogs in intermittent squad'. These words suggest that he shouldn't be on the streets and there is some danger involved. He pretends to ask what is on television in a joking kind of manner, which indicates that he dislikes everyone being cooped up whith their eyes on the screen. The author makes the place seem like it deserted; 'but now these highways were like streams in a dry season, all stone and moon radiance'.
'What are you doing out' says the police car questioningly as if he's committing a crime.
'Walking ' Mead replies 'Walking where, for what' as if it's an abnormal activity. 'And do you not have a viewing screen in you're house to see with?' as if you do not need to see things in reality, you just use the television. When the police car asks for his profession Mr mead replies that he is a writer. The car responds that this is no profession. I think that the reason that the car took Leonard to the psychiatric centre because a writer would be a threat to governmental control. This is because writers have a vivid imagination and would question the system.
I think the theme of this piece is that the future will be a bleak and depressing place where virtual reality will be the only source of entertainment. It is also about how government wants supreme control and tries to stamp out anybody with the ability to overrule them. An example of this is Leonard, who shows individuality and is taken off to the psychiatric centre.