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There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury

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What are the metaphors in the story by Ray Bradbury "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

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The breakfast stove churns out a lovely breakfast for the people who are no longer there, and a while later, it disposes of the food, which has been left uneaten. The narrator says that "hot water whirled them down a metal throat which digested and flushed them away," and the dishes are dropped into the washer. The pipes in the sink, perhaps a garbage disposal, are compared, via metaphor, to a metal throat. With the inhabitants of the house gone, no longer able to swallow down their breakfast, the house's metaphorical throat replaces their own.

Later, the house itself is compared to an old unmarried woman as a result of its "mechanical paranoia," the way it responds to various critters that have approached it since its humans were, evidently, vaporized. The narrator describes the house's "old-maidenly preoccupation with self-protection" in this way. Further, after the old family dog returns to the home, emaciated and decrepit now, the house begins to make pancakes, torturing the poor beast with the delicious scent. The dog, we are told, begins to froth at the mouth, and "its eyes turned to fire." The animal runs around in circles, biting itself, and finally dies in the parlor. The dog's eyes are metaphorically described as turning to fire, perhaps because the animal's longing for the food the house produces is so strong that it seems to consume his entire being.

Next, the clean-up mice that come out of the walls are referred to as "regiments," comparing them to the military, probably because they are so well-ordered and efficient and single-minded in their maintenance of the home. Still later, the attic of the house is compared via metaphor to a "brain," as the machinery that keeps the house functioning seems to be housed there. As a result of this fire, the house shudders, "oak bone on bone," its beams and rafters compared to the bones that make up a human skeleton.

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The house, which continues to function after its inhabitants have been vaporized in a nuclear holocaust, is described in personifying metaphors, such as "it had shut up its windows and drawn shades in an old maidenly preoccupation with self-protection."  On the day the story begins, the house "quivered at each sound, the house did."  After a period of continuing to function mechanically, the narrator describes the house as becoming more and more sensitized to its isolation and reacting fearfully, like an old woman on her own.

The impending metaphoric death of the house begins with the line "At ten o'clock the house began to die."  Somewhere, sighing, a pump shrugged to a stop."  Though the house is fully mechanized and programmed for the family's needs, this is metaphoric language since houses do not actually live, nor do pumps signal their indifference or resignation. 

At the story's end, a single wall stands to witness the house's destruction.  Its repetition of the date deepens the poignancy of the fact that no one is left to hear or respond to the advance of time.

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Bradbury uses a number of metaphors in this short story. When describing the house, for example, Bradbury compares it to an "altar," and likens its many appliances, like the cleaning robot-mice, to "attendants." Similarly, he describes the house's attempt to keep intruders out as a religious ritual which goes on "senselessly" and "uselessly." This religious metaphor reinforces the idea of constancy. The house will not stop its functions, even though the family members are all dead and never coming back.

In addition, when describing how the house drops any dust and debris down some tubes into the cellar, Bradbury compares this action to an "evil Baal." Baal is a demon, so by making this comparison Bradbury highlights the house's constant need to remove itself of dirt. It views dirt as an unwelcome guest and removes it as soon as it is discovered. 

Metaphors are, therefore, important in helping Bradbury  bring the house to life while highlighting its various functions. In doing so, he warns the reader that technology can be as equally destructive as it can be helpful. 

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Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains," is filled with figurative language. The most prevalent form of figurative language in this story is personification, followed by simile. There are a few metaphors in this story, as well. Metaphors compare two unlike things without using like or as, which distinguishes them from similes. 

One of the metaphors compares the house to a great altar. Here is the quote: 

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

The inhabitants of the house are compared to gods in this metaphor. They are the ones who have gone away. The rituals of the house are compared to religious rituals. Religious rituals are man's attempt to gain access to a god or gods. The house cooks breakfast, gives announcements, prepares baths and entertainment. It is all useless, however, without the family to receive the service. The attendants can't access the gods. The altar, or house, remains empty.  

Another metaphor occurs when the house catches on fire. The house is designed to spray a green chemical to stop fires when they are detected. A metaphor is used to describe this: "Now there were twenty snakes whipping over the floor, killing the fire with a clear cold venom of green froth."

The snakes are the hoses which spout the green fire retardant. The chemical is compared to venom, as it attacks the fire, much as a snake attacks an enemy.  

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