There Will Come Soft Rains Summary

Ray Bradbury

There Will Come Soft Rains

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There Will Come Soft Rains Summary

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The short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” by prolific American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury initially appeared in the May 6, 1950 issue of Collier’s magazine. Later that year, it would be included in the collection The Martian Chronicles. That book, although released as a collection of stand alone stories, would eventually come to be viewed as an early example of the “novel in stories” format that would gain popularity years later as the stories that make up The Martian Chronicles, while only loosely connected, are unified enough to give the book a novel-like feeling.

As “There Will Come Soft Rains” begins, an electronic voice is awakening the residents of a house by announcing the time of day and what is on the agenda for the people. The scene is devoid of any signs of human existence, however. The absence of human life is not formally explained by Bradbury, but silhouettes of a family, consisting of a man, woman, and two children have been seared into a side of the house, implying that some sort of apocalyptic event, perhaps a nuclear holocaust, has occurred. While the voice in the house is addressing someone, there is nobody there to receive its messages. The house, it turns out, is the only one that remains intact in an area that is surrounded by debris. The house, as if it is the living being, goes about its daily activities as it apparently always has. The stove prepares breakfast, and the day’s weather conditions, along with suggestions for what clothing the people should wear, are delivered to a nonexistent audience. The house is continually cleaning itself, foreshadowing perhaps an ultimate cleansing with automation challenging the natural way of things. Any creature approaching the house has been kept out for lack of the ability to provide a necessary password, and the house in such instances closed its windows and shades. When a dog, apparently a pet of the former inhabitants of the home, appears, gaunt and near death, it collapses after searching the rooms of the house, looking for humans. It soon dies and is brought to an incinerator in the basement by cleaning mice. The dog, which is from the realm of the “living,” is easily disposed of by technology.

Even the event with the dog does not stop the house from performing its regular tasks. Lunch is made, the furniture is arranged for a card game, and the nursery prepares itself for the children’s routine. As night approaches the voice, addressing a Mrs. McClellan, inquires as to what poem she would like read that evening. When no response is forthcoming, it begins reading a poem by Sara Teasdale that begins with the line, “There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,” and ends with the lines, “If mankind perished utterly;/And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn/Would scarcely know that we were gone”. The main theme of the verse is that the Earth would go on even in the event of the extinction of humankind. At the conclusion of the reading of the poem, a tree limb is blown into the house through a kitchen window and spills a cleaning liquid onto the stove. A fire breaks out and the house, after issuing a warning for its residents to escape, cannot, though it tries, extinguish the fire. The dwelling then becomes part of the surrounding rubble, save for one voice still emerging from the remains that repeats the phrase, “Today is August 5, 2026…” Life is gone, but the automation survives.

That the annihilation of the human race would serve as the basis of a story published in 1950 comes as no surprise. The world was still reeling from the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki just a half-decade prior. The silhouettes of the people burned on the home, for example, reflected actual images found of citizens of Japan who were vaporized in the atomic bomb attacks. Bradbury may be offering a commentary on the increasing attention to and reliance on automation and technology that was growing in society at the time. The house does everything necessary for those who live (or in this case, lived) there and their daily lives can be seen even in their absence. The technology, however, does not appear to represent growth in society, but rather the repetitious tedium in life. The house keeps going through its daily activities without need or purpose, and in the end, it could save neither its residents nor itself. It can be inferred that the more humans allow technology to control their lives, the more difficult it becomes to be self-reliant, and no matter how advanced the technology, it is nature that will win out over technology when the end arrives.