Explain the links between the poem and Bradbury’s story.

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Ray Bradbury includes the full text of Sara Teasdale’s poem “There Will Come Soft Rains” within the short story. Just prior to the house being destroyed, the home’s artificial intelligence agent begins to recite the poem—a favorite of the now dead owners—as part of its preprogrammed evening ritual.

Teasdale’s poem describes a world without mankind after he has exterminated himself due to an all-consuming war. Nature continues its cyclical progression, not caring that “mankind perished utterly.” Without humans, nature reclaims its dominion over the earth: spring is personified as a woman who, upon waking, “would scarcely know that we were gone.”

This poem serves as a contrast to the postwar reality within Bradbury’s story. While a nuclear bomb effectively wiped out the population of Allendale, it also obliterated the landscape. The “radioactive glow” of the “ruined city” can be seen for miles at night. Although it is raining in the beginning of the story, a nod to the poem’s title, nature is depicted differently. Unlike Teasdale’s vision of a post-apocalyptic harmony as nature peacefully ensures, Bradbury posits that modern warfare will actually destroy nature in addition to humans.

When the house catches fire, this represents nature’s violent revenge on the manmade technology that has destroyed it. The house is the last reminder of human existence in the city, and the personified flames consume the structure with “ten billion angry sparks.” This shows that nature, as represented by fire, can be wrathful and destructive just like the humans whose nuclear war damaged the earth.

Bradbury includes the poem as an ironic contrast to his vision of a world without people in order to illustrate the potential consequences of nuclear war. Published in 1950—just a few years after the bombs dropped on Japan to end World War II—the story addressed real fears about what could happen in a world where such consummate annihilation was now possible thanks to man’s innovation.

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