~ 4 minute read
Set in the not-so-distant future, Bradbury’s pot-apocalyptic short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” paints the reader a narrative of the fall of man through the life and death of a home in automation after the nuclear holocaust. The author cleverly infuses key details in his setting in order to develop his narrative plot and message through inference and imagery, setting the pacing to that of the clock times, in reference to the Doom’s Day clock, which stumble towards the inevitable destruction of life.
Throughout the beginning of the story, Bradbury paints the house as a living ecosystem, though it is full of automation. This hits the reader on a few different levels, and lets them in on not only the environment, but also kicks off the central metaphor. He uses the technique of a slow realization for the reader, implementing strange images over common items at first to make the reader understand that the environment is both futuristic and able to grasp, yet lightly off-putting. An example of this would be “Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o’clock, off to school, off to work, run, run, eight-one! But no doors slammed, no carpets took the soft tread of rubber heels.” Here the reader starts to understand that the house is operating alone. Bradbury cleverly uses the reverse of action, the emptiness to set the tone of the work. Soon after, the reader is let in on the ecosystem within, a mirror of the natural set through robotics. “Out of warrens in the wall, tiny robot mice darted. The rooms were acrawl with small cleaning animals, all rubber and metal.” The creatures are keeping the house in order and maintaining the natural rhythm of life in their ecosystem. This builds on the living metaphor of the house, but also clues the reader into what kind of future technology is present. Bradbury views the progress of man as reliant on the strict scheduling and assistant direction of machines they created. The contrast lies in that the house is devoid of real life, yet teeming in that which had been created.
Inference and realization are critical to understanding the post-apocalyptic world that Bradbury creates. Gradually, the reader comes to understand not only that the house is empty and alone, as the previous quotes assisted with, but that the humanity is indeed exterminated. Bradbury writes “At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles.” The reader comes to realize that the world underwent a nuclear holocaust, and that the environment within this home is all that is left standing. Everything living seems to be dead or dying. When the dog enters the scene, Bradbury describes it as “once huge and fleshy, but now gone to bone and covered with sores.” This implies that there is little left alive for the dog for food, and that it is undergoing the extreme effects of radiation sickness. When it dies, the robotic mice clean it up quickly, and the last of life disappears from the story. This theme of dispersing death, and disappearing from existence is prominent throughout the story, stemming from the setting. Early on we see it applied to first the humans, but then all life through the dog. The latter half of the story removes that of the automatic house and its ecosystem of robots, completing the image full-circle in death.
Bradbury turns his setting against itself to drive home the theme of death in the story by the second half. The fire in the home, and the devolving cries of the various robots within the ecosystem as they collapse, affirm the destruction of life in totality from the nuclear war. The author creates action by destroying the setting without ever attaching the reader to a singular character. The setting is the character, and wall the “living” components of the structure make it come alive to the reader, so when it is destroyed, the reader feels for the setting itself. The death of the home is the end of life on the planet. The house is subjected to personification to enhance this effect. The last line cries out in finality the date in which life finally ceased to exist “Today is August 5th, 2026,” and the reader know that it was man’s squabbles the led to the death of life on the planet, complete eradication by that date.
The author’s story finds its power through the setting alone, without the use of characters at all. The house is personified, and though humanity is since gone, it carries a life of its own. But through a simple error, the entire microcosm burns in an instant, much like that of humanity. Bradbury’s setting is the story, and it drives the narrative and provides action in it’s own progression through the doomed clock of a single day.
You can read the story online from this link:
https://www.btboces.org/Downloads/7_There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury.pdf
Let me know your thoughts and analysis of it as well!
Oates, Joyce Carol, and Ray Bradbury. “There Will Come Soft Rains.” The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 476–481.