illustration of a nature scene with a bird in the grass next to a puddle that shows a translucent reflection of a human

There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury

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In "There Will Come Soft Rains," how does the protagonist evolve?

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In a story without humans, set in a post-apocalyptic world and pitting technology against nature, the house is the tragic protagonist. The house, which has survived a nuclear blast that incinerated the family which lived in it, is a technological marvel. It continues to function without purpose after the family it has served has died. It cleans itself, prepares meals, sets up the bridge table, talks to the family and continues its soulless but poignant cycle of life. It reminds the reader that a technology that does not serve humans, whether it be in the form of nuclear bombs that destroy humankind or an empty house, has no purpose.

As with the Teasdale poem it is based on, in the end nature wins. Gradually the technology goes awry. The house can no more adapt to the changes brought on by nuclear holocaust than can the family it represents. It too is destroyed by a consuming fire it can't fight. It changes by dying, being destroyed, but this is a change wrought on it as it tries to continue doing inflexibly what it has always done.

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The "protagonist" in this story is certainly the home itself, although this is a slight abstraction of the concept of a protagonist because the house is, ultimately, a nonliving object, and despite all of its complexity, it is merely a reflection of what was programmed into it by its human owners. Thus we might say that humans themselves, and the family that lived in this home, are simultaneously the protagonists, but only by limited proxy through their technology.

The house, if interpreted as the literal protagonist, changes very little throughout the story, other than going through a series of preprogrammed behaviors, as it is implied to have done for many years. The "change" that the house experiences is its own "death", or destruction, by fire at the end of the story. The complete lack of growth or self-awareness that the house exhibits makes it difficult to argue that it actually goes through any kind of change from the perspective of characterization.

If viewed as a representative of humanity or the family that owned it, the change exhibited is the slow loss and degredation of the human impact on the world, and the reclaiming of its memory by nature. From this perspective, the change is one of the final steps in a slow death that shows the true protagonist of the story is nature, and that humanity's influence was largely self-absorbed and destructive.

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How does the main character of the story change from the beginning of the story to the end in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

The house goes from ignoring the fact that its humans are no longer there to frantically trying to save itself.

There are no living beings in most of the story.  The closest we come is a dog that drags itself into the house barely alive, and then dies.  The people have turned into silhouettes of white paint against the burned-black house.

The five spots of paint—the man, the woman, the children, the ball—remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer.

Although there may be no living beings in most of the story, there are plenty of mechanical ones.  The house itself is fully automated.  It functions in a completely self-sufficient way, and takes care of the humans too.  It cooks them breakfast and cleans up after them.  It even reads them bedtime poems.

The house is described as dying.  It lights a cigar for the man, who is now a spot of paint.  Instead of being smoked and put out, the cigar ignites a fire that threatens the house.

"Fire!" screamed a voice. The house lights flashed, water pumps shot water from the ceilings. But the solvent spread on the linoleum, licking, eating, under the kitchen door, while the voices took it up in chorus: "Fire, fire, fire!" The house tried to save itself.

The house is described with anthropomorphism, reinforcing the idea that it is in fact the main character.  The house goes from blissful ignorance to acknowledgement of a full-fledged threat. The little robots are not able to save it.  It does not have enough water to put out the fire.  As much as it tries, the house is destroyed.  Nature takes back the land, and all traces of humanity are gone.

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