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There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury
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How does the author create and maintain suspense in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

The author creates and maintains suspense by only gradually revealing what is going on in the story. At first, we only know that the family is missing, but not what happened to them. Later, we discover their fate but are in suspense about what will happen to the house. Bradbury accentuates our sense of building to a climax by repeatedly noting the time of day, which suggests another event is about to occur, though we don't know what will happen or when it will occur.

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Bradbury creates and maintains suspense in his short story by only gradually revealing what is going to come. It is as if he is slowly pulling back a curtain.

The first element that creates a sense of suspense is the absence of the family. The house goes about its business, but the family they are servicing is mysteriously missing. We learn the house tells the family it is time to go:

But no doors slammed, no carpets took the soft tread of rubber heels

Later, we learn that:

Outside, the garage chimed and lifted its door to reveal the waiting car. After a long wait the door swung down again.

Then, without any explanation of where the family is, we find out that:

At eight-thirty the eggs were shrivelled and the toast was like stone.

By this time we are both curious and very uneasy about what is going on.

We get a clue when we learn that:

At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow.

Finally, we discover that the family was playing and working outside in the yard when a nuclear blast hit. All that is left of them is a blackened image burned into a wall of the house.

The mystery of what happened to family being solved, we are kept in suspense about what will happen to the house. The sense of building towards a climax is accentuated by constant references to time passing:

Two-fifteen ... two-thirty-five ... Four-thirty

We are waiting for the other shoe to drop when we learn that:

At ten o'clock the house began to die.

Our final bit of suspense is whether the house will win the battle with elements as a fire breaks out and eventually consumes the majority of the home.

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