What is the organizational structure of the story "There Will Come Soft Rains"?
For approximately the first two-thirds of Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," the story is organized chronologically, as the "voice-clock" sings out the time of day. At seven, it is time to get up, and at eight it is time to go to school. Despite the fact no humans appear, the automated house goes through its routine. It makes breakfast, cleans, waters the lawn and sets up for the afternoon card games. This organization helps build suspense as the reader wonders why no people are there to hear the house's messages or eat the prepared food. For its part, the house goes on completely normally as if nothing were amiss, as it tells the time and stays on its schedule.
It's at ten o'clock that the reader is alerted as to why no humans are around. The text tells us that the house is the only one left standing in a "city of rubble and ashes." At ten-fifteen, the reader discovers the burnt shadows of the parents and children on an outside wall (the same kinds of shadows that were seen in Hiroshima in 1945). Obviously, the city has been the target of a nuclear attack.
The reader may assume that this mechanized routine might go on forever since the house takes no notice of its absent inhabitants. It even chooses a poem to be read aloud when no selection is given. This reading of Sara Teasdale's "There Will Come Soft Rains" begins an organizational change in the story. The poem is about a world with no people which seems to get along perfectly fine without the human element. Unfortunately, the serene itinerary of the house is interrupted at this point.
Bradbury writes, "At ten o'clock the house began to die." A fire breaks out as a tree limb crashes through a kitchen window, igniting cleaning chemicals and setting that part of the house ablaze. The singing out of the time of day ceases as the house goes into action to avert disaster. The organization in the final two-thirds of the story abandons the chronological theme. The house has bigger problems as it does everything within its means to fight the fire. It eventually loses the battle and most of the house is reduced to ashes. One wall remains and, as if to show its robotic resilience, a voice is heard reciting the date over and over.