What is an example of suspense in the short story, "There Will Come Soft Rains"?
I wouldn't call this the most suspenseful story ever written in the annals of literature. But that's what makes this an interesting question: what, beyond lyrical language, keeps us reading?
We can see that Bradbury creates suspense in the first lines of the story:
In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o'clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty.
That opening is one example of suspense. Why, we wonder, would the clock fear that nobody would get up? Why is the house empty? Where are the occupants? These questions create unease and encourage us to read on.
At ten o'clock, we learn this is the only house left standing in a ruined landscape, the remnant of what we now suspect has been a nuclear holocaust.
Our suspense builds as the morning passes, hour by hour, and the house remains deserted. When an upset dog comes in, foaming at the mouth and dies, we are even more curious. What will happen? Despite the house going through its normal routine, nothing is normal.
Another moment of suspense occurs when the kitchen catches on fire and the fire alarms go off. Will the house, this high tech mechanism, be able to save itself?
Ray Bradbury creates suspense in two places in his short story, "There Will Come Soft Rains." The story is about an automated house that still functions in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. It is the only house left in a city that has been leveled.
But before revealing that the attack has occurred, we feel suspense as the house goes through its daily routine of preparing breakfast, making important announcements and doing the cleaning. All of this takes place without a hint that any humans are around. The reader wonders why this house is still going through the motions when no human is occupying it. We don't learn about the attack until the house has performed several of its morning duties.
The reader may actually begin to look at the house as a living entity as it continues with its day. Because we have an emotional interest in the house we definitely feel suspense as the fire breaks out. We want the house to survive, just as we would a human protagonist. When we learn that "reinforcements" have been released to fight the fire we feel some relief. Unfortunately, the house cannot be saved and we experience grief over the loss of the last vestiges of intelligence and activity in the gutted city.
An example of suspense in the story is the following:
Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o'clock, off to school, off to work, run, run, eight-one! But no doors slammed, no carpets took the soft tread of rubber heels.
This passage comes after the description of the mechanical functioning of the house, and it's not clear what happened to the residents of the house or why it is empty. This passage interjects a note of suspense, as the reader wonders why after the chiming of the clock, there is no activity in the house and no one is leaving or stirring in the house. The reader wonders why the mechanical functioning of the house is continuing while the residents of the house are strangely absent. It is not until the middle of the next paragraph that the reader finds out that this house is the lone house standing after an atomic bomb blast that has bathed the city in a radioactive glow and that has caused the silhouettes of the residents to be burned into the side of the house.