“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury is more of a snapshot in one (admittedly fatal) day. The story focuses around a house with a talking clock. This futuristic living space organizes the day’s events in a scheduled fashion such as breakfast and playtime for the children or poetry for the mother. The house is performing its daily functions and it is revealed that it is the only house left standing after what can be inferred to be a nuclear detonation. We are shown an image of a wall of the outside of the house, which has the outlines of the entire family, now deceased, on it at the moment of blast. The father mowing the lawn, the mother picking flowers and the kids playing catch.
The story continues with a dog that has been severely injured, presumably by the detonation. The house recognizes him, revealing it to be the family dog. Inside the house the dog and the house both realize the sheer emptiness and silence. The dog smells the pancakes being cooked and goes insane biting at its own tail until it dies.
The dog’s remains are picked up by cleaning robot mice that seem to be part of the house. Normal house activities resume such as lunch and a session of cards that is never played. Suddenly a vital part of the house is crushed by a falling tree-branch and a fire is lit. The house begins to frantically flood itself for salvation until it runs out of water. When all hope seems to be lost the house sprays a green liquid on the fire instantly putting it away. Despite the house’s efforts the fire continues outside and consumes the whole house only leaving a wall that repeats the date and time forever.
The chronic tension I believe was the nuclear detonation and fallout. The acute tension I think is the fire.
The things we can imitate from this I beloved to be Bradbury’s calm tone when describing extreme movement or agony such as in the scene of the house being consumed by fire and the dog’s death. I also think the unwrapping of a story is a particularly interesting way of building tension and raising the stakes in a story slowly and methodically. First we figured out we were in the future, then we found out we were in a post nuclear fallout future, then we were shown the family and their death, then we saw the dog and its death, and then the fire was introduced ending witness the houses ultimate destruction in an increasing build up that in the end takes us back to the beginning. Lastly I would point to his use of time to keep the story moving forward and to set its pace as a valuable tool.
- What do you think was the purpose of the continuous and deep personification of the house and other objects through the story?
- The story has an eerie desolate feeling even before we are aware of the fallout. How do you think Bradbury does this without revealing the twist.
- This story has many striking images both visually and emotionally. Which moment in it affected you the most
- Why do you think the moment affected you in the way it did.
- What do you think of futuristic dystopian stories that involve an apocalyptic event as a cliche and do you think this story rises above that cliche? Why or why not?