Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
By 1950, Bradbury was well aware of the looming threat of nuclear holocaust and of the irony that the technology that could be used to make life more comfortable for humanity could also be misused to bring about humankind’s ultimate destruction. In creating the house that is the focal point of the story, human beings have made their scientific knowledge work for them to render daily life orderly and carefree. Before the nuclear explosion, the inhabitants of the house clearly lived a pampered existence, and it was the house itself, humankind’s creation, that pampered them and that indeed even did much of their thinking for them. The house cooked, cleaned, and protected itself without the expending of any human energy. Martinis and sandwiches appeared readymade for the bridge party, and the cards were even mechanically dealt. The children were entertained with fantasy worlds on film projected on the walls of the nursery, and their parents with poetry read at their request by a voice box. The house also reminded the owners to pay their bills, to acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries, and to take along galoshes and umbrellas. Ironically, once the house made possible by humankind’s technological advances started to function, it no longer needed humankind. So smoothly did the house run itself that it might have lived on much longer had not nature interfered.
In Bradbury’s prophetic look at the future of modern society, human beings by the year 2026...
(The entire section is 439 words.)
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Bradbury's tale, devoid of human characters and concerned with failed technology, presents several themes that explore the dark side of the symbiotic relationship between people and their inventions.
Individual vs. Machine
Although the tragedy in this story has already taken place by the time the story opens, it is actually the conflict between human beings and the machines they create that is at the heart of this story. In Bradbury's view, people put too much faith in the machines they invent. People have the power to create devices that can destroy themselves, but they have not enacted any measures to prevent this from happening. Bradbury believes that technology is a very wondrous—yet also very dangerous—thing. He illustrates technology's marvels: a house that can clean itself and take care of its inhabitants. On the other hand, technology has also transformed the house's family into nothing but carbon shadows. By writing a story with no human interaction, Bradbury demonstrates the sterility of a world without people. The computerized house has no feelings—it cannot love and it cannot hate—it can only be programmed. Likewise, the nuclear bomb that killed the family had no inherent emotions; it simply did what it was created to do. In this world of "morally neutral" technology, Bradbury proposes that humankind is destroyed by its own hubris, or self-confidence. Once a machine's creator is dispensed with, like the house's family, the...
(The entire section is 615 words.)