illustration of a nature scene with a bird in the grass next to a puddle that shows a translucent reflection of a human

There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury
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What are the 2 main ideas presented in the story "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

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In this story, Bradbury shows how humans will be the agents of our own destruction. The narrator describes a house that does everything for its owners, all on its own. It cooks, it cleans, it reads poetry, and it even has a mechanism designed to put out fires. The narrator explains that this house is the only one still standing in a "city of rubble and ashes [....]. At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles." Though the house's interior is in ship-shape, kept clean by the robotic mice and automatic sink, its exterior is printed with the silhouettes of its former owners who were, it seems, incinerated by some kind of fiery blast from the now-radioactive town. We are left to assume that the technologies put to use in the house—technologies that will be responsible for its immolation—are to blame for the destruction of the entire city.

Further, Nature is more powerful than we are, and it will recover from the damage we inflict on it after we are gone. Like it says in the poem the house reads to its absent owners, soft rains will come and birds will nest and frogs will sing, and none of them will know of us or what happened to us, and none will care. In fact,

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

The humans and their domesticated pet have died, but the rains have come and the drops "tapped on the empty house," proving that Teasdale's predictions can and will come true.

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One of the key ideas that Bradbury asserts in “There Will Come Soft Rains” is that the technology we humans increasingly rely on has the potential to cause great destruction, as already evidenced by an allusion to the events of Hiroshima. In the actual use of the atomic bomb, some people were vaporized, leaving “nuclear shadows” where they stood when the bomb hit. This is captured in the description of the outside walls of the house in this story:

The entire west face of the house was black, save for five places. Here the silhouette in paint of a man mowing a lawn. Here, as in a photograph, a woman bent to pick flowers. Still farther over, their images burned on wood in one titanic instant, a small boy, hands flung into the air; higher up, the image of a thrown ball, and opposite him a girl, hands raised to catch a ball which never came down.
The five spots of paint - the man, the woman, the children, the ball - remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer.

This family was caught completely unaware of the impending danger as evidenced by their actions reflected in the nuclear shadows. Much like this family, many of us carry on with daily life, unaware that our increasingly complex technologies could devastate us all.

Second, Bradbury shows that humanity is not the most lasting force on the planet. After humans have destroyed each other using technology they created, nature remains. Therefore, perhaps humans would better serve our futures by connecting with a nature which is life-giving (shown in the “soft rains” rather than technology which is ultimately destructive.

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As a science-fiction author who concerned himself with philosophical and moral ideas, Ray Bradbury presents two significant themes in his short story "There Will Come Soft Rains":  the central irony that humans are harmed rather than saved by their own technology, and the underlying truth that Nature will prevail over both humanity and technology.

  • Humans are destroyed by their own technology

While the family lives a leisurely life with automated stoves, diswashers, tiny robot mice as housekeepers, voice-clocks, garden sprinklers, automated garage doors and cars, etc., the family, ironically, is annihilated by another form of technology: the nuclear explosion, "one titanic instant" that leaves the family as mere silhouettes against the wall of the house.

The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, amall , servicing, attending in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.

  •  Nature prevails over both human life and technology

Using Sara Teasdale's poem as a metaphor for the idea that Nature will conquer all that is artificial as well as human forces, Bradbury utilizes the fire to destroy the house's technology that works at a "psychopathic rate." Yet, after this futuristic "Armageddon," the final paragraph presages Nature's ability to restore as well as to prevail: "Dawn showed faintly in the east."

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