What are some examples of personification in the story "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

One example of personification in "There Will Come Soft Rains" can be seen when the house is described as shutting up its windows and drawing the shades in an "old-maidenly preoccupation with self-protection."

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Personification is a form of figurative language in which an author attributes human qualities to something that is not human. There is a great deal of personification in Ray Bradbury's short story “There Will Come Soft Rains,” being that there are no humans left in the house. The narrator uses personification when describing all of the inanimate objects in the home as well as the natural forces that later destroy it.

For example, the narrator describes the machines in the house as if they have human abilities and emotions. The stove “gave a hissing sigh” as it made breakfast, and the incinerator also makes a sighing noise later on. The robot mice are also “angry” about the dying dog, and later the narrator describes some of them as brave as they dart out during the fire.

Similarly, the narrator also describes the fire that destroys the house as if it is alive:

The fire crackled up the stairs. It fed upon Picassos and Matisses in the upper halls, like delicacies, baking off the oily flesh, tenderly crisping the canvases into black shavings.

Now the fire lay in beds, stood in windows, changed the colors of drapes.

This passage is full of personification because the narrator attributes human qualities like eating and laying down to a fire, which is not human. Later the fire is said to be “clever,” as if its movements throughout the house are calculated and malicious.

By portraying all these nonhuman things as if they have human traits, Bradbury highlights the power of technology while also reminding the reader that nothing humans create is a match for nature’s power.

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The house is the main character in Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains" because its human occupants and the rest of the humans in the area have been killed.

The house, a technological marvel that takes care of all of the family's needs, is designed to seem like a person. For example, it sings to the family as a human would: "Rain, rain, go away; umbrellas, raincoats for today."

However, the narrator of the story also personifies the house, for example, by writing:

Until this day, how well the house had kept its peace. ... it had shut up its windows and drawn shades in an old-maidenly preoccupation with self-protection which bordered on a mechanical paranoia.

It quivered at each sound, the house did. If a sparrow brushed a window, the shade snapped up. The bird, startled, flew off! No, not even a bird must touch the house!

The house in the quote above is likened to a human being keeping its peace, which means not stirring up trouble. The narrator compares it to an older, unmarried woman concerned to protect itself and continues the personification with the idea that the house "quivered" at noises, as a frightened person might.

At night, "the house began to die." This is another personification, as a house can shut down or malfunction, but it cannot die liking a living person. However, we have become so used to regarding it as a person that this wording seems natural.

As the house burns, it continues to be treated as a human being:

"Fire!" screamed a voice. The house lights flashed, water pumps shot water from the ceilings. But the solvent spread on the linoleum, licking, eating, under the kitchen door, while the voices took it up in chorus: "Fire, fire, fire!"

The house tried to save itself.

Above, the tapes that run the house are referred to as a "voice" or "voices." The sentence saying that the "house tried to save itself" treats the house as if it has human will or agency.

As the fire tears through the house, it is again personified, this time in vivid terms as a human body:

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.

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The house is personified in the story because it and the electronics in it are described as if they had feelings.

In this story, we have a post-apocalyptic world where almost every living creature has died.  The house’s family is nothing but silhouettes in the paint on the side of the house.  The house itself was fully automated though, and therefore it does not realize that the people are dead.  It continues as if they are alive, even though it is personified as fearing that is people are gone.

Until this day, how well the house had kept its peace. How carefully it had inquired, "Who goes there? What's the password?" and, getting no answer from lonely foxes and whining cats, it had shut up its windows and drawn shades in an old maidenly preoccupation with self-protection which bordered on a mechanical paranoia.

This is personification because the house cannot really “keep its peace” the way a person would.  Houses cannot inquire.  Bradbury extends the electronic mind of the house to describing it as if it had actual feelings, because it has been programmed so well that it seems alive.  This personification extends to the disembodied voice that seems to have fear.  It also includes the only remaining inhabitants of the house, the robots.

The dog, once huge and fleshy, but now gone to bone and covered with sores, moved in and through the house, tracking mud. Behind it whirred angry mice, angry at having to pick up mud, angry at inconvenience.

The little robot cleaning mice do not really have emotions.  Machines cannot think.  However, Bradbury uses personification to describe them as angry that the dog tracked in mud, just like a person might be who had to clean up after it.  The dog, the only living creature in the story, does not last long.  It dies, and the robots just clean it up.  Despite the personification, real life means nothing more to them than garbage.

This story is a cautionary tale about relying too much on technology.  The irony is that the technology that made the humans’ lives easier is just an extension of the technology that killed them.  The nuclear apocalypse is part of the technification of the country.  The people were killed by technology, and technology lives on without them.


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