The short story "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury tells the tragic story of an automated house that continues to operate as if all is well despite the fact that the owners, and presumably all humans in the area, have been killed. This passage implies that...
The short story "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury tells the tragic story of an automated house that continues to operate as if all is well despite the fact that the owners, and presumably all humans in the area, have been killed. This passage implies that the deaths were probably caused by something instantaneous such as a nuclear holocaust:
The entire west face of the house was black, save for five places. Here the silhouette in paint of a man mowing the 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.
These are obviously the former occupants of the house, destroyed in a catastrophic instant. In their absence, the house continues to function until the random occurrence of a falling tree branch starts a fire. The fire is in fact a chance event, but in his description of it, Bradbury suggests that it is the enemy of the house that has come to attack and destroy it. He does this through personification, or the attribution of human characteristics to things that are not human. For instance, the fire "fed upon Picassos and Matisses in the upper halls, like delicacies." It "lay in beds, stood in windows, changed the color of drapes!" When robots try to put it out, "The fire backed off." "But the fire was clever" and its flames rush to the outside of the house.
If you read carefully, you can find numerous other examples of Bradbury's personification of the fire. He also personifies the house as a helpless victim of this relentless enemy in passages such as this:
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.
So Bradbury suggests an unforgettable image of the fire as a deadly ravenous monster come to devour and destroy the house, and the house as its innocent victim.