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There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury

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An analysis of Bradbury's story "There Will Come Soft Rains" and its main purpose

Summary:

Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains" serves as a cautionary tale about the potential consequences of technological advancement and human hubris. The story, set in a post-apocalyptic world, emphasizes the fragility of human existence and the enduring power of nature, suggesting that technology, no matter how advanced, cannot save humanity from its self-destructive tendencies.

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Analyze Bradbury's story "There Will Come Soft Rains."

Bradbury's story focuses on an automated house that has survived a holocaust. The life of the house continues even though no human occupants remain in—or anywhere near—it. The story functions as a cautionary tale: this is what the world will be like if humanity ceases to exist, so let us work to avoid a nuclear war or similar catastrophe that might wipe us out.

In this story, an eery stillness reigns over the empty house, and Bradbury illustrates the senselessness of building a sophisticated technology if we are going to use that same technology to destroy ourselves. Here, the house continues to function as if serving humans by preparing breakfast, sending mechanical mice out to clean, and reading a poem aloud, but the technology is futile without humans. By nightfall, the technology itself is failing, as a branch falls on the house and fire erupts. Without human intervention, technology is ultimately helpless against the forces of nature. Technology only makes sense as a servant of humankind.

As readers, we feel a sense of loss as the house functions without human occupants to give it meaning and direction—or to save it from destruction.

The story echos the Teasdale poem from which it gets its name and may be summed up in two lines from that poem:

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree If mankind perished utterly.
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Analyze Bradbury's story "There Will Come Soft Rains."

There is a great analysis of this Ray Bradbury short story here on eNotes at the link below. Bradbury got the title from a poem of the same name by Sara Teasdale, which is also about an end-of-the-world scenario. In this short story, man has succeeded in destroying himself with nuclear weapons and all that is left behind are machines. Even the family dog cannot survive and dies of radiation poisoning. The themes are of man vs automation, death and fear and science vs nature. This story is from the collection Martian Chronicles in which several stories explore the same themes - man's capability to destroy himself with his own creations.

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Analyze Bradbury's story "There Will Come Soft Rains."

Much like the walls which contain the images of the people and animals burned into the sides of buildings or bridges in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb in 1945--- in Ray Bradbury’s story “There Will Come Soft Rains,” in 2026, it is a post-apocalyptic 2026, and the residual images of a family have been burned into a fence.  This is the only human sightings in the story. The story, written in 1950, found an accepting audience based on the testing of the hydrogen bombs of the period.

The family is gone but the house continues to run like clockwork as though they would be coming down from a night’s sleep.  Technology has created a world where the robots survive; but, the human beings have killed themselves with the “bomb.” Man created the technology, and the house does not care if man is there or not.

The title for the story comes from Sara Teasdale’s poem of the same title. The poem brings out the essence of the story:

There will come soft rains …

And frogs in the pools singing at night,

Robins will wear their feathery fire,

Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, If mankind perished utterly…

In the story, it appears that life goes on without man. Ironically, this is not really the case. The family dog suffering from dehydration and burns comes in the house and dies.  The city is nothing but rubble, and radiation still fills the air.

One of the themes of the story is presented by Bradbury when he questions man’s reliance on technology when the robots are incapable of saving or even helping to save human beings from annihilation. The house works too well. It has neither feelings nor emotions. The little mice scoop up the family dog and burn the body and the house never flinches.

Cleverly, Bradbury predicts some of the inventions that come to pass later in our more modern times. Yet, the robots do not have personalities and emotions. They cannot solve problems for which they have not been programmed. When the fire begins, the robots continue to perform their tasks but cannot save the house.

Bradbury thematically emphasizes that the technological advances were wonderful when the family was there to live and enjoy the conveniences.  The lack of humanity makes the machinery purposeless.  The house does everything with or without the family.  The house is merely a house without the people to make it a home.

When the fire envelops the house, the chaos seems psychotic.

At ten o'clock the house began to die.
The wind blew. A falling tree bough crashed through the kitchen window. Cleaning solvent, bottled, shattered over the stove. The room was ablaze in an instant! "Fire!" screamed a voice. The house tried to save itself. Doors sprang tightly shut, but the windows were broken by the heat and the wind blew and sucked upon the fire.

Trying to continue each part of the house’s job, the attic brain overloads and sends the house to its end in a frenzy.  Coming from its fiery grave, the voice of the clock announces the next day.  

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Analyze Bradbury's story "There Will Come Soft Rains."

This story was written in 1950 by a science fiction writer by the name of Ray Bradbury.  World War II had just ended.  The United States had dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, and Nagasaki, Japan three days later.  Hundreds of thousands of people were killed either by the direct hit of the bomb or by the radiation caused by the bomb.  It was foremost in people's minds.  Tensions had arisen between the USSR and the United States, and people were concerned about a nuclear war. 

This story gets its name from the poem by Sara Teasdale.  It reflects that nature will continue on even after mankind has killed itself.  It talks of robins, swallows, frog, wild plum trees, and soft rains that,

"And not one will know of the war, not one/ Will care at last when it is done/ Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree/ If mankind vanished suddenly. (lines 7-10)

Mankind has perished in this story.  This is the only house left and

"At night, the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles." (pg 1)

The silhouettes on the blackened house show what the members of the family were doing at the time the bomb hit.  Their bodies were disintegrated, but the silhouettes are an eerie reminder of their existence.

The house is filled with technology.  The humans are almost robots themselves doing the same thing every day.  The technology does not even know that they are not there.  If it doesn't get an answer, it just goes back to its original function. If the man does not drive his car out of the garage, the garage door closes.  If the woman does not pick out a poem to read, the computer chooses one for her. It is interesting that Bradbury was able to visualize many of the conveniences we have today.  All that is left of the world is technology and nature.  Eventually, nature takes over and destroys the technology with fire. 

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What is Bradbury's main purpose in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

In Ray Bradbury's dystopian short story "There Will Come Soft Rains," a single house is left standing in the year 2026, after an atomic blast kills the inhabitants of the house and the rest of the city of Allendale, California. The short story presents a clear warning against the current disastroous trajectory of society. As civilization advances, technology advances within it, creating systems such as "smart homes" that actually exist today (something that only thirty years ago would have been considered a work of science fiction). The home that is described in the short story is only a more advanced manifestation of the smart homes that exist today. The bombs that destroy Allendale are unspecified, but they certainly mirror the bombs that exist today that have the capability of wiping out entire cities. Devoid of human life, the smart appliances of the home continue to go about their daily tasks, unaware of the death and carnage around them, until the house catches fire and burns to the ground.

Bradbury is warning us against a future that could come at any moment, given the level of technology and weaponry that exists in the nations of the Global North. While those who can afford "smart homes" experience the luxury of technology, those who live in places like Palestine and Syria experience the complete and utter destruction and horror of advanced technology as cutting-edge weaponry and the surveillance systems of militaries destroy millions of lives. On the southern border of the United States, cutting-edge surveillance technology is being used to track down migrants fleeing from war-torn and economically impoverished countries. These migrants are then held in what amounts to concentration camps along the US border, guarded by the manpower and technology of the border patrol, military, and police. Certainly, aside from the atomic destruction of an entire city in the United States, this dystopian reality that Bradbury has written about in "There Will Come Soft Rains" is already here.

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What is Bradbury's main purpose in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

One could argue that Bradbury's main purpose for writing "There Will Come Soft Rains" is to warn readers about the dual nature of technology and illustrate how technology cannot save humanity. In an ever-increasing technical society, citizens have become dependent on technology to make their lives easier.

Despite the many advantages of technology, it can also be used for destructive purposes, like developing nuclear weapons capable of annihilating nations. Throughout the short story, the house's amazing technical feats are juxtaposed against the destructive nature of nuclear bombs to emphasize the dual nature of technology.

Bradbury also warns humans that despite our technical capabilities, we are in charge of how we choose to utilize our technology. While humans can develop technology to make our everyday lives easier, we can also create weapons that are capable of destroying everything. Essentially, technology will not be able to save humanity by preventing humans from making terrible, disastrous decisions, like resorting to nuclear warfare to end conflicts between nations.

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What is Bradbury's main purpose in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

Perhaps Bradbury's main purpose in "There Will Come Soft Rains" is to observe that no matter how technologically accomplished we become, humanity's overriding inclination is to wage war. And after the development of the devastating weapons unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, Bradbury observes that the stakes in waging war have grown frighteningly higher than previous wars.

Bradbury also suggests that we, as designers of the technology that powers the story's empty house, may be reflecting our own diminishing humanity. The robots who first let in the whining dog and then clean up its carcass are "angry mice, angry at having to pick up mud, angry at inconvenience." Of all the human emotions to assign to robots, Bradbury chose anger, not compassion.

Another "convenience" of the house reflects man's diminishing humanity. A robot voice reads aloud a poem at day's end; literature is, ironically, considered a discipline of the humanities, yet it is left up to a machine to coldly recite what perhaps Bradbury felt should remain the domain of the human voice.

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What is Bradbury's main purpose in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

Bradbury’s main purpose in writing the short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” is to warn his readers about their overuse of technology. The houses in this society that do everything for their families, from fixing breakfast to making sure they get to appointments on time, is representative of how we have allowed technology to run our lives. We’ve become so reliant on technology that it becomes impossible to be self-sufficient. However, Bradbury’s message runs much deeper. The people in this society have been destroyed by a nuclear war. No one remains to take advantage of the technology they invented. The irony lies in the fact that the very technology that humans created also destroyed them. Bradbury’s story is a cautionary tale about giving technology too much power in one’s life.

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What is Bradbury's main purpose in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

In my opinion, the main purpose of this story is to warn people of the dangers of relying too much on technology.

In the society in the story, people have come to rely on technology for everything.  The house that we hear about takes care of its inhabitants in every possible way.  They really do not have to do anything anymore.  At the same time, the people have also come to have too much military technology.  This technology is what ends up destroying the whole city (and maybe the whole society).

So Bradbury is saying that people have devised too much technology and have come to rely on it too much.

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What is Bradbury's main purpose in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

The theme of Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains" is an ironic commentary on the state of mankind in a post-atomic world. On one hand, humans have advanced to the point that they can create a house which has eliminated all of the drudgery of domestic life, including cooking, cleaning, and setting up furniture. Technology has advanced to a level where the house itself can provide entertainment, such as automatically programmed audio of the family's favorite poem and intricate video which emanates from the walls of the children's nursery. Had it not been for the bad luck of a tree limb crashing through a kitchen window, it might be presumed that the house could continue on with its daily routine far into a future devoid of humans. The house is truly a marvel of human ingenuity.

On the other hand, a culture which has advanced to the seeming pinnacle of technological invention is unable to control its lust for war. Despite major advancements in creativity and the machinery to make it a reality, humans are seemingly no different than they have been for centuries, always moving on to the next conflict that results in death and destruction. Unfortunately, a world which is willing to use nuclear weapons may be a world which, in the words of Sara Teasdale, will not mind "If mankind perished utterly."

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