There Will Come Soft Rains Analysis

  • "There Will Come Soft Rains" was first published in 1950, 76 years before the events of the story take place. At that time, 2026 seemed like a distant reality, and smart houses were just a dream. Today, the automated systems of the story's smart house are hardly futuristic. And yet Bradbury's message is as relevant as ever, as military technologies become deadlier and more controversial.
  • There are no human characters in "There Will Come Soft Rains." The protagonist, the house, features a kind of artificial intelligence that automates the house's systems but doesn't register the fact that the former residents were killed in the explosion. The only other character in the story is a dog whose primary function is to elicit sympathy from the reader.
  • Bradbury uses repetition to great effect in the final line of the story. As the house burns down, its automated systems appear to malfunction, and a mechanical voice repeats, "Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is…" This repetition both emphasizes the tragedy of the house's death and its lack of self-awareness.


Historical Context

Living and writing during the 1910s, Teasdale was exposed to and inspired by some of the most dramatic changes American life had ever encountered. By the time “There Will Come Soft Rains” was published in 1920, the United States had risen to the status of world power, and mass production had made the nation the most highly industrialized in the world. Henry Ford’s one millionth Model T had rolled off the newly invented assembly line, selling for a little over $300. Social attitudes loosened remarkably, compared to the previous Victorian era, and women became more outspoken about voting rights, better job opportunities, and greater freedom and independence. In the same year that Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, 1919, granting women the right to vote, Prohibition was also enacted, a law that would prove futile and pave the way for bootlegging gangsters such as Al Capone and Dutch Schultz. In response to the illegality of alcohol sales, clandestine speakeasies cropped up, providing throngs of customers a place to have a drink and listen to jazz, the music that became increasingly popular during the period.

The decade of the 1910s also saw the rise of labor unions, mostly because of widespread unsafe working conditions. Children were hired for low wages to work long hours in mills, mines, and factories, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a result of hazardous workplace conditions, took the lives of 145 female employees. By the middle of the decade, every state had passed a minimum age law for employment, but a federal law with the same restrictions had failed. One of the most remarkable, as well as saddest, occurrences of the 1910s was the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, drowning more than fifteen hundred people after the mighty “unsinkable” ship was ripped apart by an iceberg. But regardless of all the unprecedented social, political, and personal changes that Americans witnessed and endured during this decade, none surpassed the “war to end all wars” in its lasting effect on individual perspective and human life in general.

World War I was the impetus behind Teasdale’s writing “There Will Come Soft Rains.” When the conflict erupted in 1914, pitting Germany and Austria-Hungary against Great Britain, France, and Russia, American President Woodrow Wilson took a position of neutrality. He insisted, however, on maintaining full trading rights with all the countries on both sides of the battle, a proposal that both...

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Style and Technique

At the heart of the story’s irony is a poem by Sara Teasdale that the mechanical house chooses to read when the former lady of the house, Mrs. McClellan, is no longer there to express a preference. The title of the story comes from the first line of the poem: “There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground.” Teasdale goes on to create a poetic world in which swallows, robins, and frogs continue their singing, oblivious to humankind and its wars:

And not one will know of the war, not oneWill care at last when it is done.Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,If mankind perished utterly;And Spring herself, when she woke at dawnWould scarcely know that we were gone.

The irony exists in the way in which Bradbury’s fictional world in “There Will Come Soft Rains” parallels the imaginative world of Teasdale’s poem. By placing this poem in the middle of the story, just before the house starts to die, Bradbury draws attention to the role that nature plays in its death, but also to nature’s lack of concern for humanity. There is also the additional irony that this poem about nature’s lack of concern for human life is picked at random by a house designed to operate at the beck and call of people who are no longer even...

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Historical Context

Aftermath of World War II
Bradbury wrote "There Will Come Soft Rains" in the early 1950s. The memory of World War II was fresh...

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The setting of "There Will Come Soft Rains" is very precisely stated in the opening of the story. It is the morning of August 4, 2026, and...

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Literary Style

Bradbury uses irony to great effect in the story. Irony in this case means presenting an outcome of a situation that is...

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Literary Style

Lyric Poetry
Lyric poetry is poetry that expresses subjective thoughts and feelings in a songlike style, often using both rhythm and rhyme. It is not a coincidence that people who write words to songs are writing “lyrics,” but lyric poetry does not necessarily imply a simple, unsophisticated style that must appeal to a mass audience to be considered popular. Truly, many of Teasdale’s poems were set to music, especially the early ones in which the themes were lighter and more concerned with love and relationships than depression and war. “There Will Come Soft Rains” is lyrical and the couplets do rhyme, but its dark, cynical subject keeps the poem from falling into a simplistic, naïve category that describes some short, rhyming poems.

The obvious end-rhyming of the lines in this poem is offset by very effective alliteration within the lines. Alliteration is a poetic device used to emphasize the sound of a poem or the way individual words work together to create interesting patterns of repetition. There are two types of alliteration: consonance, which means a repetition of likesounding consonants, and assonance, which means a repetition of like-sounding vowels. Notice the s sound in the first couplet, using the words “soft,” “smell,” “swallows,” “circling,” “shimmering,” and “sound.” In only two lines, Teasdale manages to use six words alliteratively without lapsing into overdone poetics or forced intonation....

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Social Sensitivity

Bradbury wrote "There Will Come Soft Rains" in the early 1950s. The memory of World War II was fresh in people's minds, particularly the...

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Compare and Contrast

1951: The first thermonuclear device is detonated by the United States in the mid-Pacific. The island atoll of Eniwetok is obliterated...

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Topics for Discussion

1. Discuss the benefits and risks of nuclear weapons and other forms of potentially destructive technology.

2. The story...

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Find out about the house that Microsoft founder Bill Gates built in the Seattle, Washington, area. What can computers control in that...

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Topics for Further Study

Find out about the house that Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates built in the Seattle, Washington area. What will computers do for...

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Related Titles / Adaptations

Bradbury's The Veldt tells of a brother and sister who have the power to go anywhere in the world through their nursery's electronic...

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Media Adaptations

The Martian Chronicles was adapted as a film for television in 1979, starring Rock Hudson, Bernadette Peters, Roddy McDowell, and...

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What Do I Read Next?

"The Veldt," a story included in Bradbury's collection The Illustrated Man, tells of a brother and sister who have the power to go...

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For Further Reference

Everman, Welch D. "August 2026: 'There Will Come Soft Rains': Overview." In Reference Guide to Short Fiction, First Edition. Edited by...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

Bradbury, Ray. Zen and the Art of Writing, Capra Press, 1973.

Bradbury, Ray and Jeffrey M. Elliot...

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury. New York: Chelsea House, 2001.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” New York: Chelsea House, 2001.

Eller, Jonathan R., and William F. Touponce. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004.

Reid, Robin Ann. Ray Bradbury: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Touponce, William F. Naming the Unnameable: Ray Bradbury and the Fantastic After Freud. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1997.


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Bibliography and Further Reading

Abrams, M. H., A Glossary of Literary Terms, Sixth edition, Harcourt Brace, 1993, p. 108.

Drake, William, “Introduction,” in Mirror of the Heart: Poems of Sara Teasdale, edited by William Drake, Macmillan, 1984, pp. xxxviii–xxxxix.

Teasdale, Sara, Flame and Shadow, The Macmillan Company, 1935.

Untermeyer, Louis, in Bookman, Vol. LII, No. 5, January 1921, pp. 361–64.

—, The New Era in American Poetry, H. Holt, 1919, p. 267.

Van Doren, Mark, in Nation, Vol. 112, No. 2896, January 5, 1921, p. 20.

Further Reading
Drake, William, Sara Teasdale: Woman and Poet, Harper and...

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Compare and Contrast

1917: The Selective Service Act is passed, forcing men between twenty and thirty to enlist for military service. The first drafted American troops arrive in France in October to begin America’s involvement in World War I.

Today: The Center on Conscience and War continues its struggle to end funding for draft registration. The organization made progress when the House of Representatives agreed and voted to end government financial support of selective service. However, the Senate voted to restore funding and, today, males between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five are required to register for the draft.

1921: President Warren G. Harding pardons Socialist Labor Party candidate Eugene V. Debs, allowing for his release from prison. Debs had been sentenced to ten years behind bars for his controversial anti-war speeches delivered during World War I.

Today: Before leaving office, President Bill Clinton announces controversial pardons of several convicted white-collar criminals. Perhaps the most disturbing was his pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, who was indicted in 1983 on charges of tax evasion, fraud, and participation in illegal oil deals with Iran. Before he could face trial, Rich left the country and settled in Switzerland.

1924: Nellie Ross of Wyoming and Miriam Ferguson of Texas become the first female governors in the United States.

Today: A record five...

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Topics for Further Study

• Lyric poetry encompasses a wide range of styles and presentations, although it does prescribe certain guidelines. After familiarizing yourself with those guidelines and with the work of various lyric poets, compare Sara Teasdale’s poetry to Walt Whitman’s. How are they similar and how do they differ?

• Read Ray Bradbury’s short story, “There Will Come Soft Rains” and write an essay explaining why you think his interpretation of the world’s future—in a science fiction sense—is more or less frightening than Teasdale’s.

• World War I was called “the war to end all wars.” Why do you think this phrase came about, and how do you believe people interpreted it as the conflict was going on? Why did the First World War not end all others?

• “Lost Generation” was the nickname of Americans in their twenties and thirties during the 1920s. In particular, it described those who felt disillusioned with their own government and society, so not everyone who fit the age category would have appreciated the term. What is the nickname of your generation, or what would you call it if it were up to you? What does the name say about your generation, and how do you reflect it or reject it?

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Media Adaptations

Many of Teasdale’s lyric poems have been set to music and recorded by numerous individual singers and groups. A general Internet search under “Sara Teasdale recordings” brings up over fifty pages of information on song titles, the artists who recorded them, and, in some cases, where they are available for purchasing or borrowing.

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What Do I Read Next?

• World War I is explored from an interesting perspective in Gary Mead’s The Doughboys: America and the First World War, published in 2000. Readers may be surprised to learn about how the United States’s own allies tried to use American involvement in favor of their respective nations as well as against the enemies. This book is lengthy but reads more like a novel than a history text.

• Richard Rhodes’s 1995 publication of Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb gives readers an inside look at “super” science, postwar politics, espionage, and moral challenges all rolled into one. This book is different in its account of the bomb’s creation in that it not only provides the facts of...

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