There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury

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What is the message or meaning behind the poem "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The message behind Sara Teasdale's poem "There Will Come Soft Rains," which is quoted in Ray Bradbury's short story of the same name, can be summed up in the following lines:

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

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

The poem is saying that we humans are not as important as we might like to think in the grand scheme of nature. If humans destroy themselves in a war, nature won't care. The birds, the frogs, and the trees will continue to go about their business as if nothing happened. The cycles of nature are more powerful than human beings.

Therefore, we should show more humility and take more care to behave in a way that is in harmony with nature and will help preserve us as a species. After all, there is no special dispensation that says we must stay alive.

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kmj23 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To understand the message of this poem, it is helpful to know a bit about the context. Teasdale wrote this poem in 1918, as World War I was coming to an end. Teasdale was inspired by the unprecedented levels of violence and destruction that she, and the rest of the world, had witnessed during this war.

In the world of Teasdale's poem, mankind has been wiped out as a result of its thirst for violence. The only survivors belong to the natural world. The trees, the birds, and the frogs continue on, not knowing or caring where mankind has gone.

"There Will Come Soft Rains," then, highlights the pointless and futile nature of war. The death of mankind changes nothing in the world. People are gone, but the natural world continues unaffected. This message also functions as a warning to the reader. Teasdale argues that war is pointless and that if we continue fighting on the kind of level seen in World War I, we are certain to achieve nothing but our own destruction.

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Gracie O'Hara eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Sara Teasdale's poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" was first published in 1920 in her collection Flame and Shadow. It was written during or just after World War I, the first modern war to use terrible modern weapons, including massive modern artillery and chemical weapons. For many people, the war, which was fought on many fronts and saw some 18 million casualties, was almost apocalyptic in nature. For Teasdale, herself prone to melancholy (she committed suicide at the age of 48), it raised a specter of the complete annihilation of the human race. 

The main theme of the poem is that the beauty of nature would persist undisturbed even if humanity perished utterly:

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,

If mankind perished utterly...

The contrast between the peace and beauty of the birds, frogs, and trees and the horror of human wars suggests that Teasdale thinks of soft rains washing away the evidence of human conflict and renewing the lands that were once battlefields as something positive. Thus a central message of the poem is the redeeming power of nature. 

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susan3smith eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Sara Teasdale's poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" describes nature's transcendence over man's devastation. Despite the wars that man wages and the destruction that these wars cause, all signs of this damage will be covered by "soft rains," "swallows circling," "frogs in the pools singing at night," and "robins . . .whistlling their whims."  In fact, the speaker of the poem claims, nature will last much longer than human beings will and is quite impervious to man's suffering and death. 

And not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done. 

The conclusion can be drawn that war is futile and meaningless, making no lasting impression on the world except by causing a quicker end to mankind's presence. 

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