There Will Come Soft Rains Characters

The only character in “There Will Come Soft Rains” is the house.

  • The house stands after an implied nuclear blast that seems to have obliterated most life on earth. The images of the people who once lived there are burned into its side. Somewhat like a modern-day smart home, the house continues all its daily functions, cooking meals, cleaning, and setting up card games that no one will play.

Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 385

The House
"There Will Come Soft Rains" is an unusual story in that it contains no human characters. However, because of its anthropomorphic characteristics—its ability to act on its own—the house itself is a character. It continues to function even after the world around it has been destroyed. Although not specifically stated in the story, it is implied that all human life on earth has been obliterated. All that remain are shadowy silhouettes of figures burned into the side of the house by the blast of the bomb.

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The house is computerized and has been programmed to proceed with its routine without the intervention of a human being. The computer wakes the house's inhabitants up from their sleep, it cooks the family's meals, cleans the house, and even sets up the card table for the regular bridge game. The house is efficient, dependable, and well-programmed. This is ironic, though, because without the people there, all these functions serve no purpose. The meals go uneaten, there is no one to play the card game, and no one listens when the computer reads the poem from which the story takes it name, "There Will Come Soft Rains," by Sara Teasdale. Thus, the house is dutiful but also rigid and unchanging.

The house is also characterized by the "cleaning mice," who are somewhat annoyed by the mess made by the dog. This animal arrives at the house sick with radiation poisoning and tracks mud into the house. The agony of the dying dog is not acknowledged by the cleaning mice; they express only annoyance when forced to clean up its mess. This is also ironic because it demonstrates the inability of the house to sympathize and its sense of exasperation, normally human emotions.

When the wind blows a tree branch through a kitchen window and knocks over a bottle of cleaning fluid, the house also imitates human behavior by attempting to save itself from the fire. Bradbury makes the house seem like it is experiencing the human instinct for self-preservation. This is another instance of irony, since this "instinct" fails to preserve the house's "life," and exposes its "human' ' behavior as an imitation only. Thus, ultimately the house represents the inability of technology to replace humans, and the inferiority of technology when confronted by nature.

Themes and Characters

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 979

Bradbury's tale, devoid of human characters and concerned with failed technology, presents several themes that explore the dark side of the symbiotic relationships between people and their inventions. Although the tragedy in this story has already taken place by the time the story opens, it is actually the conflict between human beings and the machines they create that is at the heart of this story. In Bradbury's view, people put too much faith in the machines they invent. People have the power to create devices that can destroy them, but they have not enacted any measures to prevent this from happening. Bradbury believes that technology is a very wondrous—yet also very dangerous—thing. He illustrates technology's marvels: a house that can clean itself and take care of its inhabitants. On the other hand, technology has also transformed the house's family into nothing but carbon shadows. By writing a story with no human interaction, Bradbury demonstrates the sterility of a world without people. The computerized house has no feelings—it cannot love, and it cannot hate—it can only be programmed. Likewise, the nuclear force that killed the family had no inherent emotions; it simply did what it was created to do. In this world of "morally neutral" technology, Bradbury proposes that humankind is destroyed by its own hubris, or self-confidence. Once a machine's creator is dispensed with, like the house's family, the machine is empty and meaningless.

Despite the horror inflicted by science upon the Earth in "There Will Come Soft Rains," nature is shown to be the more powerful force. Humans have created a bomb that destroys them all and a house that is incapable of being destroyed by the bomb. But fire, a force of nature, is able to destroy the house. In the end, the Earth, though damaged, still exists. By describing this continuity, Bradbury points out his belief: that the Earth was around long before humankind, and it will be around long after. From this perspective, the folly of inventing machines that will overrule nature is exposed. Nothing is more powerful than nature, so humans are doomed to destroying only lesser powers, such as themselves.

By setting the story in a time of human extinction, Bradbury plays upon people's fear of death. He imagines the world without humans, telling readers that they have been reduced to shadow outlines on buildings. For those who have seen photographs of the atomic destruction that ended World War II, it is a vivid and immediate image. An ominous realization this brings about is the fact that even without people, the world will continue. Nature is indifferent to human existence, Bradbury proposes. This realization should instill a healthy fear in people and trigger their instinct for self-preservation. If people realize the tenuousness of their existence, Bradbury seems to say, perhaps they will take precautions to insure they are not eradicated, least of all by their own technology.

The fear of dying is closely related to fear of killing. Bradbury, like many people during the 1950s and early 1960s, feared that if political leaders no longer feared killing their enemies, then human existence is doomed. This lack of fear was the philosophy behind nuclear proliferation and the concept of mutually assured destruction, which stated that nuclear war will not happen if a country is guaranteed to be destroyed by the country it attacks. Thus, moral regard for others' lives was not a factor in the decision to annihilate millions of people. It was only the thought of being killed themselves that prevented leaders from making a single phone call that could launch thousands of nuclear missiles.

"There Will Come Soft Rains" is an unusual story in that it contains no human characters. However, because of its anthropomorphic characteristics—its ability to act like a human—the house itself is a character. It continues to function even after the world around it has been destroyed. Although not specifically stated in the story, it is implied that all human life on Earth has been obliterated. All that remains are shadowy silhouettes of figures burned into the side of the house by the blast of the bomb.

The house is computerized and has been equipped to act without the intervention of a human being. The computer wakes the house's inhabitants up from their sleep, it cooks the family's meals, cleans the house, and even sets up the card table for the regular bridge game. The house is efficient, dependable, and well-programmed. This is ironic, though, because without the people there, all these functions serve no purpose. The meals go uneaten, there is no one to play the card game, and no one listens when the computer reads the poem from which the story takes it name, "There Will Come Soft Rains," by Sara Teasdale. Thus, the house is dutiful but also rigid and unchanging.

The house is also characterized by the "cleaning mice," who are somewhat annoyed by the mess made by the dog. This animal arrives at the house sick with radiation poisoning and tracks mud into the house. The agony of the dying dog is not acknowledged by the cleaning mice; they express only annoyance when forced to clean up its mess. This is also ironic because it demonstrates the inability of the house to sympathize and its sense of exasperation, normally human emotions.

When the wind blows a tree branch through a kitchen window and knocks over a bottle of cleaning fluid, the house also imitates human behavior by attempting to save itself from the fire. Bradbury makes the house seem like it is experiencing the human instinct for self-preservation. This is another instance of irony, since this "instinct" fails to preserve the house's "life," and exposes its "human" behavior as an imitation only, not the "real thing." Thus, ultimately the house represents the inability of technology to replace humans.

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