How could I progress with a short story comparison between "There will Come Soft Rains" and "The Veldt" both by Ray Bradbury? In comparing and contrasting both short stories, how could I advance...

How could I progress with a short story comparison between "There will Come Soft Rains" and "The Veldt" both by Ray Bradbury?

In comparing and contrasting both short stories, how could I advance in showing their similarities and differences in terms of themes, characterization of antagonist and protagonist, and literary devices?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Bradbury short stories can find significant moments of comparison and some distinct points of divergence.   

What follows are some suggestions that can assist you with the formation of your essay.

The stories feature similar themes regarding the dangers of technology.  In both settings, human-developed technology intended to make life better ends up having the opposite effect.  The house in "There Will Come Soft Rains," is a technological marvel.  The story's exposition shows this in how breakfast is made while upcoming dates and to do lists are recited. However, it becomes clear that the same technology which gave rise to the house has also given rise to something darker in terms of death and destruction. There are no signs of life anywhere.  Through this, Bradbury is able to communicate the malevolent force of technology.

A similar view of technology is seen in "The Veldt."  Once again, a futuristic home that dazzles the mind and confounds the imagination is presented. The Hadley's home embodies the very best in technological advancement:

They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home, which had cost them thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and and was good to them. Their approach sensitized a switch somewhere and the nursery light flicked on when they came within ten feet of it.  Similarly, behind them, in the halls, lights when on and off as they left them behind, with a soft automaticity. 

In both stories, the houses represent the positive ends of technology.  However, as with nuclear allusion in "There Will Come Soft Rains," the destructive reality behind the technology becomes clear as the house's nursery in "The Veldt" victimizes George and Lydia.  

In both stories, the theme of technological advancement leading to destruction is prevalent.  However, a significant difference between the stories exists in who benefits from the technological systems.  In "There Will Come Soft Rains," the entire family has become victim to a form of technological destruction through nuclear holocaust. When Bradbury writes of "the silhouette in paint of a man mowing a lawn," "a woman bent to pick flowers" and "a small boy, hands flung into the air," he is indicating through imagery that scientific technological advancement has resulted in their deaths. In contrast, in "The Veldt," it is the children who willfully use technology to victimize their parents.  Peter and Wendy manipulate technology to neutralize the threat posed by their parents. In both works, the theme of technology gone bad is dominant although there is a difference between who is in control of it and benefits from its use: society at large versus the children.

One of the main differences between the works is in the protagonist and antagonist.  It is clear that Wendy and Peter are the antagonists in "The Veldt."  Lydia and George are the protagonist parents who want the best for their children.  They are increasingly afraid as to the alienation and isolation that results from Peter's and Wendy's dependence on the technological nursery.  Their care is offset by their children's resentment.  Wendy and Peter serve as antagonists because of their destructive role in their parents' fates.  

In "There Will Come Soft Rains," the house is the protagonist because everyone else has been wiped out from nuclear radiation suggested in the montage.  The house can be considered the protagonist as a way to highlight the absence of human life in a world dominated by technology.  The house speaks, but its automatic words fail to make a connection to human warmth, which is why its end is particularly haunting as it continually repeats tomorrow's date.

One shared literary device in both stories is allusion.  Bradbury's writing style involves allusions, indirect references, to other literary texts that enhance the meanings in his own.  This is seen in "There Will Come Soft Rains" when the title is a direct allusion to Teasdale's poem.  The connection to the poem is evident when the house recites it and the world of Teasdale's poem has been realized within the emptiness in the house: "And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn / Would scarcely know that we were gone."

Another allusion is to Milton's Paradise Lost, which is apparent when Bradbury references the incinerator that sits like "evil Baal in a dark corner." This allusion gains even more significance when Bradbury precedes it with describing how the house performs its function even though "the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly."  Bradbury's allusion to Milton accentuates a world when unlimited technology has destroyed all that it touched despite gods and divinity.

Allusions are evident in "The Veldt," as well.  Bradbury uses literary allusions to children's literature that reflects a child's imagination:

How many times in the last year had he opened this door and found Wonderland, Alice, the Mock Turtle, or Aladdin and his Magical Lamp, or Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, or Dr. Doolittle, or the cow jumping over a very real-appearing moon-all the delightful contraptions of a make-believe world. How often had he seen Pegasus flying in the sky ceiling, or seen fountains of red fireworks, or heard angel voices singing.

Bradbury's references are deliberate.  They showcase the transformative powers of childhood and literature.  However, there is a darker side to these allusions when it becomes clear that the children have used their technology to create a world where their pride of lions kills their parents.  In the allusion to the imaginative literature of childhood, Bradbury is able to enhance his theme of how the good in technology can be twisted into a destructive entity. 

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There Will Come Soft Rains

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