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There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury

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What happens to the house in "There Will Come Soft Rains" by the story's end?

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By the end of "There Will Come Soft Rains" the house has been almost completely burned down. A tree branch extends into the former home and begins a fire which the advanced technology within cannot snuff out. As the sun rises, one last wall stands, and it constantly repeats the date and time of its destruction.

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In Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains," the completely automated smart home is the only structure still standing in the middle of a nuclear wasteland in Allendale, California. The family that once lived in the technologically advanced home died during a nuclear explosion. All that remains of them are four silhouettes etched into the side of the home. Although the home is empty, the automated house continues to perform its daily functions by cooking, cleaning, entertaining, issuing reminders, and completing the tasks that made the family's life easier when they were alive. Bradbury personifies the programmed smart home as it operates efficiently and autonomously carries out numerous functions. By doing so, he illustrates the positive features of advanced technology.

Around ten o'clock, Bradbury writes that the "house began to die." During a violent storm, a tree branch crashes through the kitchen window and sparks an uncontrollable fire. The automated home attempts to save itself by spraying water from its internal pumps, shutting each door, and sending out robotic extinguishers to suppress the flames. Unfortunately, the smart home cannot extinguish the fire and the flames rapidly consume the entire house. Eventually, the technologically advanced home collapses and one wall remains standing among the debris. Within the last standing wall, a speaker continually repeats the date as the sun rises over the heap of rubble and steam.

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In Ray Bradbury's 1950 short story, the family that lives in the house full of technologically-advanced automation has disappeared. They are apparently the victims of a nuclear holocaust that wiped out humanity. All that remains of them are their four silhouettes tragically etched onto "the west face of house."

In their absence, the house continues to perform the tasks it has been programmed to complete: announcing the time of day, reciting important notes from the calendar, making meals, cleaning, monitoring the weather, watering the lawn, making martinis, and drawing baths for the children.

The narrator notes, "At ten o'clock the house began to die." Because of an act of nature—a tree branch breaking through a window—the house gradually and inexorably succumbs to its destruction. A container of cleaning fluid falls onto and ignites on the kitchen stove, and the fire quickly spreads onto the floor and grows beyond the scope of the house's built-in fire suppression defenses. Water supplies give out, and the fire eludes the backup chemicals. The house's still-operational programs go into overdrive, manically churning out a last breakfast. Ultimately, the house collapses into a smoking ruin. A single wall remains, the wiring intact enough for a mechanical voice to endlessly repeat the month, date and year of its destruction.

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Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains" is about an automated house in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Bradbury's setting is one where the human inhabitants have disappeared, but the mechanized house still remains. It continues running according to its old settings as if nothing had changed, even though there are no more humans for it to serve. In this respect, it represents one last relic of human technology present in this post-human world.

As the story continues, however, the house itself is consumed by a fire. It attempts to save itself, but its efforts prove unsuccessful. By the story's end, the automated house has been reduced to a single wall standing in the wreckage. Its artificial intelligence has been reduced as well. Where it had once been able to organize and execute daily schedules according to the preferences of its inhabitants, all it can do now is repeat the date over and over again.

Thus, at the end of the story, the automated house—a product of human technology—has joined the same fate of the people who had created it. But with that being said, I would suggest that this process is not yet finished where Bradbury ends the story. After all, at the moment, the house is in ruins.In time, nature will reclaim even those. If this is truly a post-human world, then given enough time, one must expect that all signs of human existence will eventually be erased.

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When an accident of nature sets off a fire in the house and there is not enough water and fire-fighting chemicals to put out the raging fire, the house is destroyed.

Although a nuclear blast kills the occupants of the house, the high-tech dwelling continues its automatic functions. Thus, the absurdity of a mindless technology is exemplified in Bradbury's futuristic fantasy as, although

...the gods had gone away,...the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.

The front door opens for a radiated dog who enters and dies. Voices sing the time, the nursery turns itself on to create various virtual realities for no one, the bath fills, the dinner is prepared, and a cozy fire is set on the hearth. Even when no human voice responds to the automated address from the study ceiling that asks Mrs. McClellan which poem she wishes to hear this night, the programmed automaton chooses, in unconscious irony, Sara Teasdale's poem, "There Will Come Soft Rains."

For rain is precisely what the house soon needs as a strong wind rips loose a tree branch that crashes through a window. The shattered glass falls and the subsequent gusts of wind knock over a bottle of cleaning solvent, which shatters over the stove. "The room was ablaze in an instant!" and the "house tried to save itself" by turning on all the sprinklers and shutting all the doors. But the fierce wind blows and its oxygen feeds the fire. Then, automated "water rats" squirt water all about, racing back into the walls in order to refuel and then squirt some more. However, the "mechanical rain" and various fire-fighting chemicals are no match for their indomitable adversary, Nature, as the fire eventually consumes the entire house. Finally, the destruction of both humanity and technology is complete.  

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Describe how the house is finally destroyed in "There Will Come Soft Rains."

As the previous educators have noted, the house is destroyed by a fire after a tree branch goes through the kitchen window, knocking a bottle of cleaning solvent onto the stovetop.

What is really interesting about this description is how Bradbury humanizes the process. The death of the house follows a pattern that is similar to the death of a human body. When the fire reaches the attic, for example, Bradbury describes how the pumps are “shattered” into pieces. The description is reminiscent of the way that a skull might break, with the bone smashing into pieces.

From the attic, the fire moves from room to room, beginning with the upstairs bedrooms. This is a methodical process, just as a fire would move down each section of the human body.

To really emphasize the comparison between the death of a house and the death of a body, Bradbury talks about how the house shudders and how its “bared skeleton” is impacted by the heat:

Its wire, its nerves revealed as if a surgeon had torn the skin off to let the red veins and capillaries quiver in the scalded air.

This medical metaphor is also suggestive of what happened to the former residents of the house who died in the nuclear blast. This is, therefore, a way of highlighting the horrors of nuclear war without explicitly describing the gory deaths of these people.

Returning to the house, when the fire is finally over, only one wall remains, much like the two-dimensional shapes of people that were left behind by the blast. Thus, Bradbury uses the demise of the house to warn us against the use of nuclear weapons.

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Describe how the house is finally destroyed in "There Will Come Soft Rains."

At the end of Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," the automated house is destroyed by a fire. This fire begins at night, when a tree branch shatters the kitchen window, breaking and spilling a bottle of cleaning solvent on the stove.

Immediately, the house is described fighting the fire to the best of its capabilities, but the fire spreads too rapidly, overwhelming its defenses. The fire is described moving "from room to room and then up the stairs." Eventually, it spreads upwards into the attic where it sets of an explosion. In the end, the house is shown collapsing inwards on itself:

The crash. The attic smashing into the kitchen and parlor. The parlor into cellar, cellar into sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound down under.

Bradbury concludes this story with an image in which all that is left at the house is one wall still standing in the wreckage.

In this moment, this last remnant of human technology has been destroyed, just like the people who built it. If you were to blame the fire for the house's destruction, you might consider the destruction of the human species to be a factor in the demise as well. After all, part of the reason the house was destroyed was that, lacking the resources of civilization that could have assisted its defense, the house's defenses were overwhelmed. In a world where humanity remained a presence, this particular struggle between technology and a force of nature could have easily had a different result.

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Describe how the house is finally destroyed in "There Will Come Soft Rains."

The house in this story dies because of a fire that it can't successfully put out. Readers are told that at ten o'clock the house began going through its final moments. The wind blowing outside the house is strong enough to knock down a tree branch, and the branch crashes through the kitchen window. For some reason, a bottle of cleaning solvent was close enough to the stove that the the tree branch and crashed window also knocked the bottle over. Cleaning solvent was splashed all over the stove and ignited. The house immediately springs into action, and begins trying to fight the growing fire.

"Fire!" screamed a voice. The house lights flashed, water pumps shot water from the ceilings.

The house does everything right. It shuts doors to minimize oxygen to the fire, and it sprays it with water; however, the blaze is simply too great. Too many windows have already been broken by the wind and heat. Eventually, the house runs its water supplies completely dry, and then there is simply very little hope for the house—yet, the house still continues to valiantly fight.

And then, reinforcements. From attic trapdoors, blind robot faces peered down with faucet mouths gushing green chemical.

Unfortunately, the fire is too "clever" for the house, and the house is eventually so burned and weakened that it collapses down on itself until nothing is left but a charred pile of rubble.

The crash. The attic smashing into kitchen and parlour. The parlour into cellar, cellar into sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.

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Describe how the house is finally destroyed in "There Will Come Soft Rains."

On the simplest and most literal level, the house in "There Will Come Soft Rains" is finally destroyed by a fire caused by an accident. A wind knocked down a tree branch. It fell through a window and knocked over a bottle of cleaner. The contents fell on a stove, and a fire started.

The fire spread quickly. The house's automated systems fought the fire. They shut doors, to contain the fire and cut off its air supply...but windows were broken, and so the fire kept spreading. The system's robots sprayed it with water...but the house's reserves hadn't been refilled, and so they ran out, and the fire kept spreading. The robots sprayed chemicals inside the house, to extinguish the flames...but the fire had spread outside the house, and it kept spreading, until everything was reduced to a pile of ashes.

On a larger level, the house was destroyed by entropy. All systems break down. Disorder always spreads.

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