No action or event is really complete until you’ve told the story of it. By putting it in some kind of order you develop an understanding of what it meant, as well as what happened.
(a) Use this statement as the stimulus for a piece which concludes with a new understanding of a problem. You may write in the imaginative, discursive, or persuasive modes. You do NOT have to include the statement.
In your response, you must include at least ONE literary device or stylistic feature from Bradbury’s ‘The Pedestrian.’ 12 marks
(b) Explain how at least ONE of your prescribed texts from Module C has influenced the choices you have made in part (a). 8 marks
I slid into the seat on the other side of the table, wondering if the cops always sat on this side. She had both elbows on the table, her head in one hand. She looked bleak and exhausted.
I reached across for a hand. ‘I’m here now.’ She didn’t say anything. Or move. ‘What happened?’
‘Criminal damage,’ she said tonelessly.
‘What were you doing at Woolbridge?’ I had thought she’d been at work in the city. When the cops phoned to say that they had arrested her for throwing a brick through someone’s window in a derelict suburb miles away I had thought there’d been a mistake.
She shrugged, miserably. ‘Walking.’
‘In Woolbridge, in the dark?’ Woolbridge had been a housing project of the more notorious sort, saved only from national notoriety by its position on the city’s outskirts. At least, it had been the outskirts in the seventies, when it was built. Rising prices and a bulging city centre had taken malls, gates communities full of white or acceptably-coloured mothers pushing over-designed strollers full of hothoused kids on their way to baby yoga and Lil’ Genius playcare-daycare socialization ‘experiences’ right up to the boundaries of the city’s old sin-bin. Five years ago they moved the unacceptably-coloured and financially recalcitrant tenants out, putting then in the new sink, a further twenty miles away. Now Woolbridge stood mostly empty, grass growing in the gutters, through the cracks in the old basketball court, the chain-link fences torn and rusting, with holes large enough to allow passage of urban wildlife.
We’d gone, once, to take photos for the portfolio of Changing City shots that I’d been gathering over the last few years. I squeezed it in between business trips around the country. I suppose I was showing – myself, mostly, since I’d given up on the dream of turning pro – that the same saccharine process of gentrification was happening everywhere and in the same way.
She shrugged again.
I hadn’t thought she’d even enjoyed the day at Woolbridge. She sat on the front step of one of hte old apartment blocks and called to the feral cats which slunk in and out of the smashed windows. It had been overcast. A light wind had skittered garbage up the abandoned streets and emphasised the silence. The whole afternoon we only saw one other person, an old man walking home from who knew where with a bag of groceries. There were a handful of hold-outs who refused to leave. They were engaged in some serpentine legal action with the city over tenancy rights and cultural dispossession. After cajoling and intimidating them, the city changed tack and sent round a police cruiser now and again to make sure the ghosts of Woolbridge weren’t geriatric dealers.
I gave her hand a shake on the table. ‘Talk to me. What were you doing out there? I thought you were at work.’
She looked at me with empty, bleary eyes. ‘I haven’t worked for months,’ she said flatly. ‘They fired me in May.’
‘Why didn’t you tell me.’
She shrugged again. ‘I was trying to work stuff out.’ What she meant was that she’d been depressed. Deeply, profoundly, sluggishly depressed. The thing no one ever tells you about depression is the weird places it takes someone – the surprising actions, the energy for self-destruction and acting out that you don’t expect depressed people have.
‘OK,’ I said. ‘But why Woolbridge? I didn’t think you liked it there, that day we went.’
‘At night? You could have met some real trouble.’
‘It got dark. I was there all day.’
I pulled my hand away, beginning to chage against this drip-feed of information. ‘I don’t get it. You need to explain this, Alice, because you’re headed for a criminal record – and I know you don’t care about that,’ I said, seeing her shoulders rise for another shrug, ‘but I do. So we’re not going until I know what’s going on.’
‘I just liked it,’ she said. ‘It felt…I don’t know…it felt right. This place where everyone’s gone and there’s just, you know, the aftermath of us.’
‘What do you mean, us?’
‘People. Us. Humanity. Just…the mess that we are, that we create and expect everyone to exist in and then leave. Somewhere like Woolbridge, you can sit in the ruins and just imagine for a little bit that it’s all over, that our time on earth has passed and now there’s just the quiet. The worst has come and gone. And all of that – the stuff we hate so much, the smashed window, the leaves in the corners of old bedrooms, the grass growing up in crack and the foxes settling in bathtubs, bird shit and ivy covering the graffiti – it’s all beautiful and better than us.’
I saw a gleam of tears in her eyes and had a sudden intuition that I wouldn’t have her for long. ‘OK, but…throwing a brick through a window? Why? You could have killed someone. The light was on in that house. There wa s someone in there, living in there.’
‘Yeah, she said wearily. ‘And it was fucking offensive. There’s always someone spoiling everything. Some hold-out grimly hanging on, like a fucking yeast infection.’
I put my head in my hand, mirroring her posture. I understood now, but how the hell was I supposed to explain this to the cops?
I was influenced by the depiction of a post-human world in Bradbury’s ‘The Pedestrian’ because I found his description of the derelict suburb beautiful. Although this wasn’t Bradbury’s aim, I felt that things have become more worse since he wrote the story in the 1950s and that there’s no viable option for humans – the best thing we could do is cease to be. Therefore I inverted the meaning of his symbolic single lighted house. Far from being a beacon of hope, it was a single irritating reminder of the tenacious hold humans have on their existence, and how we foolishly see that as praiseworthy, a mark of some admirable resolve.
However, because I understand that this is hardly the majority perspective, I wanted to communicate it through the eyes of someone a ‘normal’ reader would relate to. The boyfriend-narrator was used to give an orderly background to the world of the story, and to show Alice from outside. While I could have told the story from her perspective, I thought it was more likely to make sense and have narrative integrity if it came from an external observer.
The girl explains her action in order that her partner will reach a new understanding of both her, and the way she sees the world. He, however, is left with the problem of making the police understand what’s really a philosophical problem. It suggests that, although achieving the ability to recount an event may mean closure or understanding for one person, they’re then left with the problem of telling it to others.