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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains," the house is designed to perform every function that a servant would perform. It takes care of all domestic chores like cooking and cleaning, but it also caters to the preferences and entertainment desires of the inhabitants, just like servants would attend wealthy people. 

The story is set in the year 2026, and all the functions of the house are automated. The story opens with the house telling the time and urging its inhabitants to awaken. It then cooks breakfast, which no one is around to eat, and cleans up all the dishes. The house calls out reminders, much like Google calendar does for us today: birthdays, bills that are due, etc. 

The house, the only one left standing, also protects the one-time inhabitants. It detects movement and asks for a password from anyone who comes near. If it doesn't receive a password, it shuts the windows and pulls the shades to protect itself. 

The house cleans up after the dog and deposits all dust and debris into an incinerator in the basement. In the evening, the house sets up a bridge table and snacks. The house draws water for baths, and the nursery walls light up to entertain the children. Every hour that goes by has the house performing another task. In the evenings, the house lights a cigar for the man of the house and selects a poem to read to the lady of the house.

When the fire starts, the house does everything it can to save itself. The sprinklers come on, the doors shut, and a green chemical is sprayed, but to no avail.  The house's efforts to save itself are as futile as its efforts to serve the family that once lived in it. Throughout the story, Bradbury leaves clues that the family has perished in a nuclear holocaust. 

"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."

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The house in Ray Bradbury's classic short story performs many functions. In fact, it is as if the house were designed to complete all functions those who live there might need.

It starts by announcing the time (7 AM), and reminding the absent owners of what they need to do (get up).

The house then makes breakfast for them. Perhaps more impressively, it remembers the preferences of the people who lived in it: they like their eggs "sunnyside up," for example. It also times all different elements of the breakfast so they are ready at the same time.  Later, when no one eats the food, it disposes of the breakfast.

The house then goes on to remind its owners of their obligations: it keeps their calendar, and reminds them of appointments. It prepares the (missing) family for those obligations, opens the garage, etc.

It waters the plants, recites poetry for the people who used to live there, and even tries to fight the fire that breaks out.

It does everything but live, and everything that the family who lived there needed--except prevent war.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Really, the house in this story does absolutely everything, it seems.  It tells time, it cleans the dog, it hardly seems like the people would need to do anything.

  • It makes the breakfast itself
  • It reminds the people who live there of all the things they need to do that day -- whose birthday, whose anniversary, what bills are due, etc.
  • It automatically cleans everything
  • It shuts windows and closes doors and locks up.
  • When the dog dies, it gets rid of the body
  • It plays music
  • It sets out a table and cards for a scheduled game
Read the study guide:
There Will Come Soft Rains

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