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There Will Come Soft Rains

by Ray Bradbury

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How is the house described in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

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Bradbury personifies the technologically advanced smart home by describing its voice, eyes, and behaviors. The empty automated home is the last remaining house in a city of rubble and ashes following a devastating nuclear attack. Despite the fact that the inhabitants died during the attack, the house continues to mechanically function flawlessly as it prepares meals, cleans dishes, issues reminders, and sweeps the home. Bradbury's personification gives the house a life of its own as he describes how it "quivered at each sound," which seems to border on "mechanical paranoia."

The technologically advanced nursery walls produce realistic images of animals, and mechanical mice dart out of the walls to immaculately clean the floors while the ominous incinerator in the cellar burns the debris like an "evil Baal in a dark corner." Bradbury also uses imagery to describe the daily functions of the house, which are compared to "magic tricks" as the computerized mechanisms perform their programmed tasks. Whenever a branch falls onto the house and starts a fire, the house even tries to save itself by shutting the doors and attempting to put out the flames. However, the house cannot prevent the fire from spreading, despite the mechanical snakes spraying water from the attic. Bradbury continues to personify the home by writing,

The house shuddered, oak bone on bone, its bared skeleton cringing from 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 (5).

Eventually, the home crumbles to the ground as its voice fades into the night. Overall, Bradbury uses personification and imagery to describe the technologically advanced, automated smart home, which is programmed to function as a human.

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In "There Will Come Soft Rains," you'll notice that Bradbury uses personification in his descriptions of the house. This is shown clearly in the second paragraph of the story when Bradbury is describing how the house keeps out intruders. He says that the house "quivered" at sound, for example, and was suffering from "mechanical paranoia."

He even gives the house a voice, which he uses to emphasize this sense of paranoia:

How carefully it had inquired, 'Who goes there? What's the password?"

In addition, Bradbury describes the house as being "silent" because of all its residents, with the exception of the family dog, are gone. The house seems to realize this because of the silence which permeates its walls.

As the story continues, Bradbury further personifies the house when he describes its "death." What's really happening is that the house is burning down, but through his descriptions, it is as though the house is a living being, coming to the end of its life. He describes how the house shudders, for example, and puffs out smoke.

By personifying the house as a living being that experiences paranoia, fear, self-awareness, and death, the house becomes the story's central character.

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The house is characterized as an almost living entity, and is given an abundance of descriptions that detail both its structure and contents, as well as its "behavior".

The house is specifically provided with a number of humanizing elements, specifically, things which we would normally associate with a living human. It has electric "eyes", it "sings" and "screams", an electric "brain, a metal "throat" and oak "bones", and the house "quivers" and "shudders" in protective paranoia. These elements are specifically intended to make the house seem like an ecosystem, one which is specifically intended to care for its inhabitants, and is more of a companion than a literal servant.

In having its own "thoughts" and behaviors, yet being unable to recognize the absence of its owners, the house seems something like a dog; its existence is defined by its family, and it lacks the ability to adapt and rationalize beyond that dynamic. This is perhaps supported by the point in the story in which the dog enters the home and dies, foreshadowing that the house, too, will die, and that its existence is pointless, just as when the dog chases its tail just before dying.

The house is also described as being the only one left standing amid a glowing, radioactive wasteland, the aftermath of an atomic blast. Even more than its ignorance of the fate of its owners, the house is ignorant of the collapse of society around it. 

 

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In "There Will Come Soft Rains," discuss some "human" verbs that the writer uses to describe the house.

You are right in emphasising the way that, as you call them, "human" verbs are used in the story to portray the extent of technological development and how we are presented with a fully functioning house in this great short story with no need for humans to do anything. Consider how the voice-clock "sings" and the voice tells the absent humans all they need to do:

"Today is August 4, 2026," said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, "in the city of Allendale, California." It repeated the date three times for memory's sake. "Today is Mr. Featherstone's birthday. Today is the anniversary of Tilita's marriage. Insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills."

With no human characters therefore, this story is an ironic reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of human nature. It is also a dire warning about the limits and dangers of technology. By showing us a house that operates without the need for humans to do anything, Bradbury presents us with a future level of technological sophistication that amazes us - until we remember that technology has literally done away with the need for humans - both in the sense that the house does everything, but also in the sense that technology has destroyed mankind. It is this message that the use of "human" verbs emphasises in the story.

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