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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Describe the organizational structure of the story "There Will Come Soft Rains." What effect does the structure of the text create on the story itself? Where is there a change in this structure?

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Bradbury's story begins in medias res, or in the middle of the action. We are confronted with a house that is going through its daily activities of tending to its family. However, the family itself is oddly absent. It is not until the second page of the story that we get an inkling of what happened prior to the start of the tale. We find out that all that is left of the family is the imprint of them in black against the side of the house. This suggests a nuclear war has killed everyone.

Meanwhile, the house goes through its duties. A second break point comes when, ironically, it begins to recite the Sara Teasdale poem that gives the story its title and speaks of nature's indifference as to whether humankind lives or dies. After this, the house catches on fire.

The effect of this organizational structure is to build suspense and unease. Not knowing where the family is at first creates mystery. Observing the house continuing its duties after we know the family is dead creates a sense of futility. The structure helps reinforce the point that technology by itself has no meaning and too easily can go out of control, as happens when the house burns down.

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Bradbury uses a ticking clock and a voice calling out the time to count down the final moments and hours in the destruction of the dead family’s house.  Like the nuclear bomb’s countdown to destroying the citizens in the story, the house that survived the nuclear blast is on limited time as well.  Many paragraphs use the repetition of “tick tock” to signal the end is coming or near.  This repetition builds suspense and panic in the reader’s mind, and the passage of time brings with it feelings of fear and anxiety.

This pattern does stop twice in the story. When Bradbury describes the dog outside trying to get in and when the house is in its final throes of the fire destroying it, the clock seems to temporarily stop.  The dog and the house are the last two “living” things in the story.  The house is “alive”, almost “motherly”, because of how it lovingly takes care of the family’s needs.

Bradbury achieves an effective mood in the story through repetition, suspense, and the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the family.

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