At a Glance
- Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains" warns readers against the dangers of nuclear warfare. It describes one day in the life of the only house that survived a nuclear blast in Allendale, California in 2026. Bradbury uses horrific images—the emaciated dog, the four silhouettes where the house's family were burned in the blast—to show readers the unnecessary brutality of atomic warfare.
- Technology can be both destructive and helpful in "There Will Come Soft Rains." Contrast the deadly power of the nuclear bomb with the automated smart house: one kills an entire population, the other devotes itself to the material comforts of a family that no longer exists. The house's continued service makes its death all the more poignant.
- One could argue that death is the plot of "There Will Come Soft Rains." Before the story begins, the residents of Allendale have already died sudden, gruesome deaths in the blast. From there, the readers witness two deaths: the slow, pitiful decline of the family dog and the tragic, accidental death of the house, which burns to the ground, a victim of circumstance.
Themes and Meanings
By 1950, Bradbury was well aware of the looming threat of nuclear holocaust and of the irony that the technology that could be used to make life more comfortable for humanity could also be misused to bring about humankind’s ultimate destruction. In creating the house that is the focal point of the story, human beings have made their scientific knowledge work for them to render daily life orderly and carefree. Before the nuclear explosion, the inhabitants of the house clearly lived a pampered existence, and it was the house itself, humankind’s creation, that pampered them and that indeed even did much of their thinking for them. The house cooked, cleaned, and protected itself without the expending of any human energy. Martinis and sandwiches appeared readymade for the bridge party, and the cards were even mechanically dealt. The children were entertained with fantasy worlds on film projected on the walls of the nursery, and their parents with poetry read at their request by a voice box. The house also reminded the owners to pay their bills, to acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries, and to take along galoshes and umbrellas. Ironically, once the house made possible by humankind’s technological advances started to function, it no longer needed humankind. So smoothly did the house run itself that it might have lived on much longer had not nature interfered.
In Bradbury’s prophetic look at the future of modern society, human beings by the year 2026 have advanced to the point where they can control their material realm, but they cannot control their own destructive tendencies. The implication is that the nuclear blast is the result of an act of aggression against the West Coast of the United States. Whether war or nuclear accident is responsible for the devastation, however, human beings’ power to use science for their own benefit is juxtaposed to their powerlessness to control their scientific developments in their more destructive forms.
The end of the story also illustrates humankind’s powerlessness in the face of natural forces. The manner in which the house dies emphasizes the ability of nature to endure in spite of human beings’ ultimately fatal attempts to control their environment. The wind blowing down a tree branch starts the series of events that end in the total destruction of the house. Dawn breaks in the east as the destruction is complete. The natural cycle goes on regardless of whether there is a single human being left alive to witness it. A human’s puny recorded voice calls forth that a new day has begun, but the sun rises to shine only on a heap of rubble.
Bradbury's tale, devoid of human characters and concerned with failed technology, presents several themes that explore the dark side of the symbiotic relationship between people and their inventions.
Individual vs. Machine
Although the tragedy in...
(The entire section is 1,848 words.)