Much like the walls which contain the images of the people and animals burned into the sides of buildings or bridges in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb in 1945--- in Ray Bradbury’s story “There Will Come Soft Rains,” in 2026, it is a post-apocalyptic 2026, and the residual images of a family have been burned into a fence. This is the only human sightings in the story. The story, written in 1950, found an accepting audience based on the testing of the hydrogen bombs of the period.
The family is gone but the house continues to run like clockwork as though they would be coming down from a night’s sleep. Technology has created a world where the robots survive; but, the human beings have killed themselves with the “bomb.” Man created the technology, and the house does not care if man is there or not.
The title for the story comes from Sara Teasdale’s poem of the same title. The poem brings out the essence of the story:
There will come soft rains …
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
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…
In the story, it appears that life goes on without man. Ironically, this is not really the case. The family dog suffering from dehydration and burns comes in the house and dies. The city is nothing but rubble, and radiation still fills the air.
One of the themes of the story is presented by Bradbury when he questions man’s reliance on technology when the robots are incapable of saving or even helping to save human beings from annihilation. The house works too well. It has neither feelings nor emotions. The little mice scoop up the family dog and burn the body and the house never flinches.
Cleverly, Bradbury predicts some of the inventions that come to pass later in our more modern times. Yet, the robots do not have personalities and emotions. They cannot solve problems for which they have not been programmed. When the fire begins, the robots continue to perform their tasks but cannot save the house.
Bradbury thematically emphasizes that the technological advances were wonderful when the family was there to live and enjoy the conveniences. The lack of humanity makes the machinery purposeless. The house does everything with or without the family. The house is merely a house without the people to make it a home.
When the fire envelops the house, the chaos seems psychotic.
At ten o'clock the house began to die.
The wind blew. A falling tree bough crashed through the kitchen window. Cleaning solvent, bottled, shattered over the stove. The room was ablaze in an instant! "Fire!" screamed a voice. The house tried to save itself. Doors sprang tightly shut, but the windows were broken by the heat and the wind blew and sucked upon the fire.
Trying to continue each part of the house’s job, the attic brain overloads and sends the house to its end in a frenzy. Coming from its fiery grave, the voice of the clock announces the next day.