In the short story "There Will Come Soft Rains," what techniques of characterization does author Ray Bradbury use, and how does his approach add to the theme of the story?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains," the only remaining characters are robotic and mechanical. Since the story is set immediately after a nuclear bomb explosion, any characters that were real people are nothing more than silhouettes in the paint of the house created by a thin layer of charcoal. The silhouettes are of a "man mowing a lawn," a woman picking flowers, and two children playing a game of ball (p. 2-3). However, regardless of the fact that the remaining characters, except for the dog who soon dies, are mechanical robots, Bradbury manages to infuse the characters with many thoughts and emotions, and he does so using primarily direct characterization.

When a writer uses direct characterization, as opposed to indirect characterization, the writer uses "direct statements" to describe what the character is like through personality, thoughts and feelings. In contrast, through using indirect characterization, the reader gets a sense of what the character is like through the "character's thoughts, words, and actions" (Ervin II, "Direct vs. Indirect Characterization").

We see many examples of direct characterization throughout Bradbury's short story. One example is seen in the very first sentence of the story in which the mechanical voice-clock in the living room is announcing to the family, "Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up," but most importantly, Bradbury adds to the end of this sentence a description of the clock's feelings: "... as if it were afraid that nobody would [get up]" (p. 2). The addition of the clock's feelings helps to personify the clock as a real character and also helps to underscore the themes of death, emptiness, loneliness, and the destructive power of humankind present throughout the whole short story.

Other direct characterization can be seen with respect to descriptions of the actions of the stove, the dog, and especially the cleaning mice who are at one point described as being "angry" (p. 3).

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