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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Why does Ray Bradbury include a same-name poem in "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

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Sara Teasdale's poem was an inspiration for Bradbury's story of the same name. In part, he includes the poem as tribute to Teasdale, but more importantly, because it underlines his main theme or message: that humankind should exercise more humility and care in its use of technology. In the story, a programmed house goes on functioning after a nuclear attack has killed everyone living in it. The house is not capable of caring whether the humans it is serving are alive or dead.

Teasdale makes a similar point in her poem, when she says that nature would not mind or notice if we humans were extinct. We humans should remember we are completely expendable as a species and not all that important in the nature's grand scheme. Bradbury is trying to make that point crystal clear by including the poem, the last lines of which read:

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree

If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

One of the ironies of the story is the house reads the poem to Mrs. McClellan after she has perished in a nuclear holocaust. The house notes—to nobody—that Sara Teasdale is one of Mrs. McClellan's favorite poets. What Bradbury is saying is that we would do well to really listen to what poets like Teasdale—or writers like himself—are trying to communicate and reduce our reliance on technology before it is too late.

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In "There Will Come Soft Rains," Bradbury includes this poem because it reinforces his key message that mankind's over-reliance on technology will lead to destruction. Looking at the context of Sara Teasdale's poem, for example, we see that she wrote it in the aftermath of World War One, having witnessed first-hand the destructive capability of new technologies. In her poem, she addresses this issue directly and argues that war is a pointless and meaningless activity which only nature will survive:

And not one will know of the war, not one

Will care at last when it is done.

By including this poem, then, Bradbury echoes Teasdale's belief in the danger of technology and the futility of war. It is ironic, however, that in Bradbury's story, it is man's technological creation, a talking house, which survives the nuclear blast. This is thus a stark warning to reign in our reliance on technology and to realise that our destruction is a possibility. 

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Why did Ray Bradbury write "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

There are several ways to answer the question of why an author wrote something, and with a writer like Bradbury, there may be more answers than with some others.

To start, Bradbury was a professional writer. Writing is what he did. I know that sounds basic, but never leave out the option of writing for money.

A second reason Bradbury wrote this is that he consciously and intentionally wrote a lot of short stories, to teach himself how to write. For an extended period, he wrote a short story every week. That’s 52 a year.

A third and more substantial reason can be seen in the title. Bradbury explicitly studied classic pieces of writing, and this story is a modern, technologized fictional version of Sarah Teasdale’s poem “There Will Come Soft Rain,” which also evokes a world that goes on after humanity dies.

A fourth reason is seen throughout his work: Bradbury was deeply concerned with how various kinds of technology were dehumanizing human life or replacing people. You can see this in “The Pedestrian,” where no one walks anymore, or in Fahrenheit 451, where people are more concerned about mass media than living people.

And a final reason is when Bradbury lived and wrote. He wrote this not long after the first atomic bomb was dropped (just a few years), when a lot of American society was becoming actively concerned about the possibility of atomic war. This story sums up some of those fears.

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Why did Ray Bradbury write "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

It's good to know Bradbury's inspiration for this short story, for once you know it, you have a better sense of what is being related... the depths of the story's melancholy poetic exposition:

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

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;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Sara Teasdale

So, as you see, the title of the short story is not original.
Neither, in many ways, are the ideas expressed.
In both the poem and the story, we are presented with a world in which mankind is absent and things go on as usual.

In the poem, life continues in its natural diurnal course.
And in the Bradbury story, similarly and ironically,
the manmade house continues to live and react in man's absence.

Why did Bradbury write the story? Why did Teasdale? To remind us that, in all our puffed up sense of self importance and propensity for self annihilation, in the larger scheme of things, we amount to very little. And if we should disappear altogether, we would not missed in the very least. Not by the birds or the frogs nor the things we have made for our pride and shelter, or convenience and our comfort. Let's hear it again:

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

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Why did Ray Bradbury title his story "There Will Come Soft Rains"?

To see why Bradbury gave his story this title, just look at the poem by Sara Teasdale that the house recites before the fire starts.

In this poem, Teasdale is saying that nature will not care at all if human beings cease to exist.  If people vanish, the Earth and all the other creatures would continue to exist and would probably do so quite happily.

In this story, Bradbury is showing us how our technology is starting to make this a real possibility.  He is saying that we are gaining the power to wipe ourselves off the face of the Earth.  If we do, however, we will find (actually we won't because we won't exist) that we are not really that important -- life on Earth will continue without us if we are so stupid as to make ourselves extinct.

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