Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
This futuristic story has no characters but centers instead on the single house left standing after a nuclear blast has destroyed the remainder of Allendale, California, in the year 2026. It is the story of one day in the life of the house: the day the house finally dies after having lived on for days after its inhabitants were killed in the blast. All that remains of the couple and two children who once lived there are four silhouettes in paint on the otherwise charred west exterior wall of the house. Such is the technology of Ray Bradbury’s twenty-first century world, however, that the house continues to go about its daily business, oblivious to the total destruction around it and to the total absence of human life: “The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.”
Mechanical voice boxes hidden in the house’s walls announce the date, weather, and noteworthy events of the day. A voice clock sings out the passing hours. The mechanical stove makes breakfast for family members who will never return to eat it, and robot cleaning-mice scurry out of their burrows to carry away any chance bit of debris. The family dog, the only remaining living creature, starves to death outside the kitchen door while inside the kitchen the uneaten breakfast is swept down the garbage disposal. The mice, sensing decay, scurry out...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
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"There Will Come Soft Rains" is one of Bradbury's most famous stories. Also known as "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains," the story was first published in Bradbury's highly acclaimed collection The Martian Chronicles in 1950. Written in an era in which many people were concerned about the devastating effects of nuclear weapons, the story depicts a world in which human beings have been destroyed by nuclear force. The central irony of the story is that humans have been destroyed rather than saved by their own technology. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan, were recent events in 1950, and many readers and critics found Bradbury's images of a desolate planet haunting and cautionary. In a further moral lesson, Bradbury shows how human technology is able to withstand the demise of its maker, yet is ultimately destroyed by nature, a force which prevails over all others. The story, which envisions the future but takes its title from a poem by a nineteenth-century writer, is a prime example of how science fiction literature can encompass moral and philosophical concerns.
The story opens with a clock announcing that it is time to wake up and a hint that perhaps no one will. In the kitchen, the stove cooks breakfast and a voice from the ceiling announces the setting: Allendale, California, on August 4, 2026.
The automated house prepares itself for the day, but its inhabitants have not responded to several wake up calls,...
(The entire section is 569 words.)
The story opens with a clock announcing that it is time to wake up and a hint of premonition that perhaps no one will. In the kitchen, the stove cooks breakfast and a voice from the ceiling announces the setting: Allendale, California, on August 4, 2026.
The automated house prepares itself for the day, but its inhabitants have not responded to several wake up calls, breakfast, the weather box, or the waiting car. The robotic mice finish cleaning the house, and it is revealed that the family who lived in the house—two parents, a daughter and son— have died. They are now "five spots of paint" against a house covered with a "thin charcoal layer." The city is in rubble and the "radioactive glow" emitted in the area indicates that an atomic blast has wiped out Allendale, if not the world.
The family dog returns to the house and is let in by the front door which recognizes the dog's whine. He is alive but injured from the bomb. Covered with mud he enters the house, and the robotic cleaning mice are annoyed that they will need to clean up after him. The narrator explains that all dust and debris is cleaned by the mice and fed into an incinerator which sits ''like evil Baal,'' a reference to the heathen god of the Old Testament and Satan's chief lieutenant in Paradise Lost by John Milton. Within an hour the dog is dead, presumably from radiation poisoning.
Afternoon settles in...
(The entire section is 394 words.)