In "There Will Come Soft Rains,at what point does the house go from being an automated thing into something more human like? Who/what can readers consider the protagonist and antagonist?

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In “There Will Come Soft Rains” there are no human characters.  The closest the author comes to a human character is an automated computer. Humans have been eliminated and all that is left are their automated creations.  The computer operates as if the family is still there.  The computer takes on human characteristics when it chooses the poem for Mrs. McClellan, the lady of the house.  It chooses the poem “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale.  The poem describes how nature will be unaffected by human extinction. 

“And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn Would scarcely know that we were gone.” (pg 2)

After that the house is explained in human terms. 

“At ten o’clock the house began to die.”  (pg. 2)

“The house shuddered, oak bone on bone, its bared skeleton cringing from the heat, its wire, its nerves revealed as if a surgeon had torn the skin off to let the red veins and capillaries quiver in the scalded air.” (pg 2)

When a tree bough breaks, crashes into the house and starts a fire, the house begins to scream and wail. The house fights back valiantly with

“…..blind robots …..gushing green chemicals” 

But the house is no match for the fire.  Its reserves of water have been depleted because the humans have not replenished them.  It has nothing to fight with, so it loses the battle. 

A protagonist is described by Merriam Webster as “ an important person who is involved in a competition, conflict, or cause”. (See below for documentation).  Since there are no humans in this story, and the house has taken on human characteristics, the protagonist is the house. The reader wants the house to survive. 

An antagonist, according to Merriam Webster is “a person who opposes another person” (see below for documentation).  Although there are no people in this story, the fire also has human characteristics. 

“Now the fire lay in beds, stood in windows, changed the colors of drapes.” (pg 2)

The fire is even given the ability to think.

“But the fire was clever.  It had sent flames outside the house, up through the attic to the pumps there……” (page 2)

So the protagonist is the house, and the antagonist is the fire.

My copy of the story is from the internet, so the pages may not coincide with your copy, but they should be close.

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