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There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury

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There Will Come Soft Rains Summary

Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” tells the story of a house that has survived a nuclear blast in the year 2026. The house has automated systems, not unlike a modern-day smart home.

  • Each day, the house makes the beds, cooks dinner, and throws out the trash, despite the fact that its owners have died.
  • The family dog, injured in the blast, returns to the house and is let inside. Within an hour, the dog dies of radiation poisoning.
  • That night, the house catches on fire and dies repeating, “Today is August 5, 2026.”

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“There Will Come Soft Rains” is a story set in the future that details the day-to-day operations of a smart home whose inhabitants have died in a nuclear blast. Situated in Allendale, California, this technologically evolved home goes about its typical tasks despite the fact that no one lives in it anymore. The story takes place on August 4, 2026, and the house is the last structure standing in a city reduced to rubble after the blast. There are no human survivors in radioactive Allendale, making the house the only character of the story. Bradbury’s short story touches on the fear surrounding nuclear war that was prolific at the time it was written in 1950. By using the house as the main character, “There Will Come Soft Rains” tells the story of a world after bombing when human life is no more.

As the story begins, the voice-clock chimes to alert the house’s now-nonexistent inhabitants that it is time to wake up, “as if it were afraid that nobody would.” The house prepares breakfast, repeats the date several times so its former inhabitants remember it, and details the weather of the day. Rain is expected, and the voice recommends a coat or umbrella. After no one has eaten the breakfast food, it is scraped into the disposal, and dishes are promptly cleaned. Tiny mechanical mice emerge from the walls to clean the house. The sprinklers turn on to water the remnants of the garden, which has presumably been destroyed along with the rest of the city. The family dog, injured and weakened from the nuclear blast, makes his way back to the house. Inside, he finds that the house is empty and waits by the closed kitchen door, tantalized by the smell of food. The dog dies, and the robot mice take him away and incinerate his body in the cellar. The twenty-first-century technology continues to run normally, allowing intervals between tasks where humans once filled the space.

The house prepares for a social gathering with bridge tables, cards, martinis, and egg salad sandwiches. When no one attends, it clears away the untouched festivities, and upstairs it begins the children’s bedtime routine in the nursery. A bath is run; dinner is served; a cigar is lit and reduced to ash. The voice in the study reads out a poem, Sara Teasdale’s “There Will Come Soft Rains.” This poem is supposedly a favorite of the house’s former inhabitant, Mrs. McClellan. Teasdale’s poem details the role nature plays in establishing new order by fluctuating and adapting to different circumstances. Importantly, Teasdale’s speaker mentions a time in the future when “not one [robin] will know of the war,” referencing a time when destruction is hardly a memory at all.

Later in the night, the wind blows and knocks a tree in through the kitchen window. It tips over a cleaning solution, which spills onto the stove, starting a fire that will envelop the house. While at first the house attempts to extinguish the flames, its reserves of water run out. The modern technology pushes into overdrive. The house falls into a frenzy, with voices overlapping and tasks being carried out simultaneously. Breakfast is cooked at a “psychopathic rate” with dozens of eggs, loaves of bread, and bacon strips. The lawnmower runs. The mice keep cleaning, and the poetry is still being read in the study. All this commotion occurs at once as voices frantically sing and scream in a songlike unity. 

The house, now in ruins, collapses into itself. Smoke pours from the rubble, and now one wall stands alone. One remaining voice is left inside the wall, which eerily repeats the phrase “Today is August 5, 2026.” The house has died, though this one wall seems to live on.

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