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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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 508

This futuristic story has no characters but centers instead on the single house left standing after a nuclear blast has destroyed the remainder of Allendale, California, in the year 2026. It is the story of one day in the life of the house: the day the house finally dies after having lived on for days after its inhabitants were killed in the blast. All that remains of the couple and two children who once lived there are four silhouettes in paint on the otherwise charred west exterior wall of the house. Such is the technology of Ray Bradbury’s twenty-first century world, however, that the house continues to go about its daily business, oblivious to the total destruction around it and to the total absence of human life: “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.”

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Mechanical voice boxes hidden in the house’s walls announce the date, weather, and noteworthy events of the day. A voice clock sings out the passing hours. The mechanical stove makes breakfast for family members who will never return to eat it, and robot cleaning-mice scurry out of their burrows to carry away any chance bit of debris. The family dog, the only remaining living creature, starves to death outside the kitchen door while inside the kitchen the uneaten breakfast is swept down the garbage disposal. The mice, sensing decay, scurry out again to carry off the corpse and toss it into the incinerator.

Time ticks away as the house prepares for a bridge party that never takes place, draws baths for its missing inhabitants, prepares dinner, warms the beds, and even lights a pipe for its absent master. At ten o’clock, the house starts to die. A falling branch breaks a window and sends a bottle of cleaning solvent shattering across the kitchen stove. Fire races through the rooms as the house fights desperately to save itself. All of humankind’s twenty-first century technology is brought to bear as the battle rages. Voice boxes scream out warnings to the inhabitants for whom the warning comes too late, chemical foam gushes from the attic, and mechanical rain showers down from the walls. Finally, however, the reserve water supply that has kept the house functioning for days is used up, and the fire rages out of control.

As the house’s wiring, its nervous system, starts to shrivel and burn, pandemonium breaks loose. The stove turns out huge quantities of breakfast as the flames eat up what has already been prepared, the mice rush out to try to carry away the growing mounds of ash, and the walls resound with a crazy chorus of voices, one quietly reading poetry as the study around it burns. When the house finally comes crashing down, dawn is showing in the east, and from the one wall still standing a single, last voice repeats over and over, “Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is . . . ”

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 569

"There Will Come Soft Rains" is one of Bradbury's most famous stories. Also known as "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains," the story was first published in Bradbury's highly acclaimed collection The Martian Chronicles in 1950. Written in an era in which many people were concerned about the devastating effects of nuclear weapons, the story depicts a world in which human beings have been destroyed by nuclear force. The central irony of the story is that humans have been destroyed rather than saved by their own technology. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan, were recent events in 1950, and many readers and critics found Bradbury's images of a desolate planet haunting and cautionary. In a further moral lesson, Bradbury shows how human technology is able to withstand the demise of its maker, yet is ultimately destroyed by nature, a force which prevails over all others. The story, which envisions the future but takes its title from a poem by a nineteenth-century writer, is a prime example of how science fiction literature can encompass moral and philosophical concerns.

The story opens with a clock announcing that it is time to wake up and a hint that perhaps no one will. In the kitchen, the stove cooks breakfast and a voice from the ceiling announces the setting: Allendale, California, on August 4, 2026.

The automated house prepares itself for the day, but its inhabitants have not responded to several wake up calls, breakfast, the weather box, or the waiting car. The robotic mice finish cleaning the house, and it is revealed that the family who lived in the house, two parents, a daughter and son, have died. They are now "spots of paint" against a house covered with a "thin charcoal layer." The city is in rubble and the "radioactive glow" emitted in the area indicates that an atomic blast has wiped out Allendale, if not the world.

The family dog returns to the house and is let in by the front door which recognizes the dog's whine. He is alive but injured from the bomb. Covered with mud he enters the house, and the robotic cleaning mice are annoyed that they will need to clean up after him. The narrator explains that the mice clean the house of dust and debris, feeding the mess into an incinerator which sits "like evil Baal," a reference to the heathen god of the Old Testament and Satan's chief lieutenant in Paradise Lost by Dante. Within an hour the dog is dead, presumably from radiation poisoning.

Afternoon settles in and the house continues its routine. A card table is set up, drinks are poured, and the nursery transforms into a jungle scene. The stove prepares a dinner that will not be eaten and a faceless voice begins to read a poem by Sara Teasdale, an American poet who killed herself in 1933. The poem tells of a soft rain that falls while nature circles, shimmers, and sings, amidst a war that neither birds nor frogs care about—even if all the people die.

At the poem's end, a wind comes up, spills a bottle, and starts a fire that quickly engulfs the house. Mechanical mice and faucets come to the rescue, but the fire prevails. The voices within the house begin to die and the house implodes. All that remains is "smoke and silence." Dawn appears, and one last lone mechanical voice announces the new day: August 5, 2026.

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