illustration of a nature scene with a bird in the grass next to a puddle that shows a translucent reflection of a human

There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury

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By the end of the story, what happens to the house in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

By the end of "There Will Come Soft Rains" the house has been almost completely burned down. A tree branch extends into the former home and begins a fire which the advanced technology within cannot snuff out. As the sun rises, one last wall stands, and it constantly repeats the date and time of its destruction.

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In Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains," the completely automated smart home is the only structure still standing in the middle of a nuclear wasteland in Allendale, California. The family that once lived in the technologically advanced home died during a nuclear explosion. All that remains of them are four silhouettes etched into the side of the home. Although the home is empty, the automated house continues to perform its daily functions by cooking, cleaning, entertaining, issuing reminders, and completing the tasks that made the family's life easier when they were alive. Bradbury personifies the programmed smart home as it operates efficiently and autonomously carries out numerous functions. By doing so, he illustrates the positive features of advanced technology.

Around ten o'clock, Bradbury writes that the "house began to die." During a violent storm, a tree branch crashes through the kitchen window and sparks an uncontrollable fire. The automated home attempts to save itself by spraying water from its internal pumps, shutting each door, and sending out robotic extinguishers to suppress the flames. Unfortunately, the smart home cannot extinguish the fire and the flames rapidly consume the entire house. Eventually, the technologically advanced home collapses and one wall remains standing among the debris. Within the last standing wall, a speaker continually repeats the date as the sun rises over the heap of rubble and steam.

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In Ray Bradbury's 1950 short story, the family that lives in the house full of technologically-advanced automation has disappeared. They are apparently the victims of a nuclear holocaust that wiped out humanity. All that remains of them are their four silhouettes tragically etched onto "the west face of house."

In their absence, the house continues to perform the tasks it has been programmed to complete: announcing the time of day, reciting important notes from the calendar, making meals, cleaning, monitoring the weather, watering the lawn, making martinis, and drawing baths for the children.

The narrator notes, "At ten o'clock the house began to die." Because of an act of nature—a tree branch breaking through a window—the house gradually and inexorably succumbs to its destruction. A container of cleaning fluid falls onto and ignites on the kitchen stove, and the fire quickly spreads onto the floor and grows beyond the scope of the house's built-in fire suppression defenses. Water supplies give out, and the fire eludes the backup chemicals. The house's still-operational programs go into overdrive, manically churning out a last breakfast. Ultimately, the house collapses into a smoking ruin. A single wall remains, the wiring intact enough for a mechanical voice to endlessly repeat the month, date and year of its destruction.

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Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains" is about an automated house in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Bradbury's setting is one where the human inhabitants have disappeared, but the mechanized house still remains. It continues running according to its old settings as if nothing had changed, even though there are no more humans for it to serve. In this respect, it represents one last relic of human technology present in this post-human world.

As the story continues, however, the house itself is consumed by a fire. It attempts to save itself, but its efforts prove unsuccessful. By the story's end, the automated house has been reduced to a single wall standing in the wreckage. Its artificial intelligence has been reduced as well. Where it had once been able to organize and execute daily schedules according to the preferences of its inhabitants, all it can do now is repeat the date over and over again.

Thus, at the end of the story, the automated house—a product of human technology—has joined the same fate of the people who had created it. But with that being said, I would suggest that this process is not yet finished where Bradbury ends the story. After all, at the moment, the house is in ruins.In time, nature will reclaim even those. If this is truly a post-human world, then given enough time, one must expect that all signs of human existence will eventually be erased.

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When an accident of nature sets off a fire in the house and there is not enough water and fire-fighting chemicals to put out the raging fire, the house is destroyed.

Although a nuclear blast kills the occupants of the house, the high-tech dwelling continues its automatic functions. Thus, the absurdity of a mindless technology is exemplified in Bradbury's futuristic fantasy as, although

...the gods had gone away,...the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.

The front door opens for a radiated dog who enters and dies. Voices sing the time, the nursery turns itself on to create various virtual realities for no one, the bath fills, the dinner is prepared, and a cozy fire is set on the hearth. Even when no human voice responds to the automated address from the study ceiling that asks Mrs. McClellan which poem she wishes to hear this night, the programmed automaton chooses, in unconscious irony, Sara Teasdale's poem, "There Will Come Soft Rains."

For rain is precisely what the house soon needs as a strong wind rips loose a tree branch that crashes through a window. The shattered glass falls and the subsequent gusts of wind knock over a bottle of cleaning solvent, which shatters over the stove. "The room was ablaze in an instant!" and the "house tried to save itself" by turning on all the sprinklers and shutting all the doors. But the fierce wind blows and its oxygen feeds the fire. Then, automated "water rats" squirt water all about, racing back into the walls in order to refuel and then squirt some more. However, the "mechanical rain" and various fire-fighting chemicals are no match for their indomitable adversary, Nature, as the fire eventually consumes the entire house. Finally, the destruction of both humanity and technology is complete.  

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