How does Sara Teasdale's poem of the same title relate to the story "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Sara Teasdale shares its title with the short story by Ray Bradbury because it is recited by the house to entertain one of the inhabitants. Unfortunately, the inhabitants are all dead, killed in a nuclear explosion with the rest of the city. The house cannot know this, because all of its functions are automatic, and so it simply continues on its programmed schedule.

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

[...]

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
(Bradbury, "There Will Come Soft Rains," from Teasdale, "There Will Come Soft Rains," nexuslearning.net)

The bolded phrase shows how Bradbury took one meaning of the poem and used it in his story; at least one city has been destroyed by nuclear war, but the house, less intelligent than even an animal or bird, doesn't know or care that its inhabitants are dead. It continues to perform its automated tasks without any larger purpose, and eventually is destroyed by a smaller fire, echoing the enormous fire that killed the people. The themes of both story and poem are similar, but the poem is a little more optimistic than the story, as it shows how nature will continue after humanity dies out; the story shows how even humanity's great innovations will be destroyed with time, leaving no trace of their existence.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sara Teasdale's 1918 poem and Ray Bradbury's 1950 short story share both a title and a theme.  The subtitle of Teasdale's poem is  "War Time." In it, the speaker observes that if mankind were to destroy itself in war, nature would "scarcely know that we were gone."

Bradbury's story comes to a similar conclusion.  The mechanized house, though not a construct of nature, does not note the absence of the family that had occupied it. They were vaporized after a nuclear conflagration. At the story's end, it is arguable that the last vestige of man, the elaborately programmed house, has been erased by one of nature's most elemental forces, fire.  

Both Teasdale's poem and Bradbury's story suggests that mankind possesses self-destructive tendencies that we mistake for necessary technological and defensive measures.  Bradbury wrote the story a few years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by nuclear weapons. Though his story does not make it clear whether a war or an accident has destroyed the city visible from the house, what is clear is the idea that we are likely to bring destruction upon ourselves. Teasdale takes this thinking a step further, suggesting that nature will outlast us. 

Read the study guide:
There Will Come Soft Rains

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