New Criticism

A Look into the Lonely House: New Criticism Analysis

Maci Brent

Technology and its connection to destruction is a theme that seems all too reoccurring in the modern world; a great example of this is Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains”. Television, books, and conspiracy theories have all shown the ideal of technological advancements going too far and becoming more dangerous than helpful. Some background is given before the short story begins, providing information to the reader that it was written during the Cold War. During the Cold War, the development of nuclear weapons was an increased focus, leading to a widespread fear of mass destruction. In “There Will Come Soft Rains”, Ray Bradbury uses the lone standing house as a unifying device for irony, tension, and ambiguity.

Even though this short story was written in the 1950’s, the complexities within it are still very relevant today. Technology hits record breaking advancements every year, as new gadgets and devices are introduced to the world. “There Will Come Soft Rains” is set in the future year 2026, giving a wider perspective to today’s readers, as that is only a few years away from our time right now. The features possessed by the house in the story are comparative to smart home features that citizens have access to all over the world currently. The speaker of “There Will Come Soft Rains” uses ambiguity throughout the entirety of the story, starting in the beginning. There is no immediate giveaway that the plot will be out of the normal, as the house begins to ring the morning alarms and start cooking breakfast. After some quick announcements, it becomes clear that the only movement is coming from the house itself and not from anyone inside. There is clear ambiguity within the beginning of the story, as the family may have left early that morning, or gone out of town. However, the house was sticking to the normal daily routine as if nothing was amiss.

After more announcements, the robot mice began to clean the house just as they normally would. Something out of the normal routine is that these robot mice are now only cleaning up after the house, instead of the residents of the house. Still, the routine continued. The house seems to display anthropomorphism, in instances such as “the house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes” and “until this day, how well the house had kept its peace” (Bradbury). The speaker uses this anthropomorphism as ambiguity, giving the readers a new viewpoint on an endless and pointless routine, showing emotion behind the uncontrolled continuation. Without proper emotional ties, readers today may perceive this text as a negative attitude towards technology itself, instead of an opportunity to see the possible negative outcomes. The ambiguity of the story also allows the reader to wonder how this was the only house standing, whether it was due to the technology or something as simple as the location.

As the house continues to protect itself through the looped routine, a dog arrives to the door of the home and “the front door recognized the dog voice and opened” (Bradbury). The reader can interpret this many ways, such as the dog was the previous house owners’ pet, and it came back looking for them. Or maybe it was nothing but a stray dog who had come in for comfort on several occasions after the nuclear weapon strikes. No matter if there were random encounters, or zero movement, the house continued. As the house begins to burn towards the end of the story, the house can be interpreted as displaying anthropomorphism once again, as it yelled “fire” and the voices began to die. However, it can also be interpreted as a standard fire drill, slowly using power as the house begins to be destroyed. The speaker never makes it clear to the readers if the house is strictly mechanical, or carries more artificial intelligence qualities, adding to the ambiguity of the plot.

Throughout the looped routine, the speakers display images of the charred west side of the house, where silhouettes can be seen of a woman, man, and two children. These silhouettes show the people in action of doing something, almost frozen in time. The speaker may have felt it important to state which side of the house, because the “usage of west is sometimes notable when performing literary analysis as it can symbolize the death of things, as it is where the sun goes to die daily. The use of west could also be alluding to which direction the bombs came from” (McLaughlin). Tension is clear within this imagery, because it begins to display the instant destruction that occurred, as nobody was prepared. The house itself displays tension as “it quivered at each sound” (Bradbury) and “the house tried to save itself” (Bradbury). This once again allows the idea that the house had feelings or a mind of its own, holding fear of the inevitable.

The speaker uses tension from the very beginning, first providing small snippets of the emptiness and pointless cycle. Displaying the felt tension of the house, as it protects itself from any outside life, but staying alive inside. Growing tension arises as the speaker provides more information of the current tragedy and the state of the surroundings. After a full day’s routine, the house begins to panic at the sight of fire. Fighting once again to protect itself, there is a clear strain between the capability of the house and the dooming fire that is quickly beginning to take over. The irony at the end of the story is most prominent, as the house finishes another normal day, only to end up just as the rest of the world.

There is significant irony throughout the short story, connecting the theme of the story to all other aspects. Not only is it ironic that the house itself, being created by humans, outlasted the human creators, but it also displayed clear characteristics of its makers. Showcasing human emotions of fear and distress. Even the robot mice getting annoyed at having to clean up after the dog and the fire “has human traits, though in a malicious sense. It crackles up the stairs, feeding upon oil paintings as if it knew their worth” (Dominianni). The speaker is showing irony through these aspects because the dog, house, and fire could showcase human attributes, all while humans are no longer alive. The house ironically takes on all human attributes within the story, from cooking the food, cleaning, reminding of bills, and even reading a poem at the end of the night. Humans created something so capable of life, that it was able to continue surviving without them.

However, the irony continues to get more prominent as the house begins to burn down. It somehow was able to survive the nuclear bombs, being the only house left standing. Yet one small tree was able to create a massive problem, though not long ago it seemed to have everything under control. The house went into panic mode, screaming, flashing lights, and pumping water from the ceiling. Only so much was able to be done before the system began to shut down and the water ran out. It is especially ironic in this scene, due to the nature of the house not having enough water. The water supply being used to put out the fire, “filled the baths and washed the dishes for many quiet days” (Bradbury) and was quickly gone. If the house was not programmed to automatically make food, clean dishes, and fill bathtubs, it would have likely been able to put out the fire.

To the nature of the house’s ultimate destruction, the true irony of the story is that the technology ends up being the destroyer of the house. To make everyday life easier, nothing beneficial happened in the end. The nature of humankind was so focused on making things bigger and better, that they never stopped to realize the damage that may be caused from such disconnection of what makes us human. The speaker uses tension to lead you from a boring routine into a bad ending, allowing ambiguity for the readers to widely interpret different aspects, and displaying the irony of carelessness in design. The lone standing house in “There Will Come Soft Rains” is a unifying device for the ambiguity, tension, and irony within the plot.

Works Cited

Dominianni, Robert. “Ray Bradbury’s 2026: A Year with Current Value.” The English Journal, vol. 73, no. 7, 1984, pp. 49–51. JSTOR,

McLaughlin, Pat. “A Literary Analysis of There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury.” Elon University Digication EPortfolio, Digication, 2013,

Bradbury, Ray. “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains.” The Martian Chronicles, vol. Doubleday, 1950, pp. 723–728.


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Beginnings and Endings: A Critical Edition Copyright © 2021 by Liza Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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