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There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury
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Why does Ray Bradbury include the poem of the same name in his short story "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

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Sara Teasdale's poem was an inspiration for Bradbury's story of the same name. In part, he includes the poem as tribute to Teasdale, but more importantly, because it underlines his main theme or message: that humankind should exercise more humility and care in its use of technology. In the story, a programmed house goes on functioning after a nuclear attack has killed everyone living in it. The house is not capable of caring whether the humans it is serving are alive or dead.

Teasdale makes a similar point in her poem, when she says that nature would not mind or notice if we humans were extinct. We humans should remember we are completely expendable as a species and not all that important in the nature's grand scheme. Bradbury is trying to make that point crystal clear by including the poem, the last lines of which read:

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree

If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

One of the ironies of the story is the house reads the poem to Mrs. McClellan after she has perished in a nuclear holocaust. The house notes—to nobody—that Sara Teasdale is one of Mrs. McClellan's favorite poets. What Bradbury is saying is that we would do well to really listen to what poets like Teasdale—or writers like himself—are trying to communicate and reduce our reliance on technology before it is too late.

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In "There Will Come Soft Rains," Bradbury includes this poem because it reinforces his key message that mankind's over-reliance on technology will lead to destruction. Looking at the context of Sara Teasdale's poem, for example, we see that she wrote it in the aftermath of World War One, having witnessed first-hand the destructive capability of new technologies. In her poem, she addresses this issue directly and argues that war is a pointless and meaningless activity which only nature will survive:

And not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done.

By including this poem, then, Bradbury echoes Teasdale's belief in the danger of technology and the futility of war. It is ironic, however, that in Bradbury's story, it is man's technological creation, a talking house, which survives the nuclear blast. This is thus a stark warning to reign in our reliance on technology and to realise that our destruction is a possibility. 

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