Reader Response

There Will Come Soft Rains: How Does it Make You Feel?

Eldon Moler

In the time of nuclear war, pin-up styles, and Elvis Presley, the 1950s were a time of extreme change both societal and technological. Author Ray Bradbury took advantage of the changing times and wrote a short story which captures a little bit of the time period. In 1950, he wrote the famous and widely read fictional short story, There Will Come Soft Rains. This story focuses on a family who was annihilated by the nuclear explosion, leaving their smart home to “live on.” That is, it keeps functioning in its daily routine as if nothing is out of the ordinary. How does this make readers feel? What can it teach audiences? Throughout this essay I will attempt to argue that this short story focuses on invoking feelings of fear, a willingness to change, and a concern for the future state of our world.

To understand the emotions behind this story, readers must first understand the overall basis of it. The story begins with the introduction of a new day via a voice on the ceiling speakers in a smart home. The story will ultimately revolve around this smart home. There appears to be no human activity and the home is described as being filled with vegetation that has taken over. It’s a very apocalyptic feeling. A nuclear explosion wiped out all mankind, yet the house remains. At the end of the story, the house is overcome with flames after a gust of wind creates a fire within the home. There are a lot of symbols in this story, and readers can glean many different messages from it, some might even say warnings.

There is a simple irony in this story, one that can be interpreted possibly as a crude awakening that should not be overlooked by audiences. The author (unknown) of an article titled, “A Summary and Analysis of Ray Bradbury’s ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’,” offers more insight for this perspective saying, “First, the technology in the story, all of the robotic mice and mechanical labour-saving devices, are part and parcel will the technological and scientific ‘progress’ which led to the development of the atomic bomb” (paragraph 9). The very technology that was created to help humans out—the smart home, for example—would end up doing much more harm than good. This is a mirroring image of our modern society and the technological advances that have taken place in the last five to ten years. This should be alarming and awakening to readers, as it was most likely meant to be a warning or at least an attempt to warn audiences.

Something that is very prevalent in Bradbury’s short story is his ability to show rather than tell. There is a quote by William Carlos Williams, an esteemed poet/writer, that says, “No ideas but in things.” Essentially, this means that one should focus on showing what is happening in a story, not simply state it. A prime example of this in There Will Come Soft Rains is addressed in an article written by Catherine Sustana, entitled “Analysis of ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ by Ray Bradbury.” She says, “Instead of describing the moment of the explosion, he shows us a wall charred black except where the paint remains intact in the shape of a woman picking flowers, a man mowing the lawn, and two children tossing a ball” (12). This adds to the ability Bradbury has to entice readers and give them a major sense of dread. While reading this, I felt anxious because of the idea of a family being wiped out and their shadows being the only thing left to remember them by. But it’s not a metaphoric shadow of the family, they’re literally imprinted on the wall of the house and are a permanent reminder of what was once a beautiful moment.

Another somewhat scary element to this story is its timelessness. No matter when this story was written or how many times its read by any given audience, it’s always going to be a constant reminder of the very real, very possible outcome of humanity. The irony of it all is that something which was created by humans could very well be the reason we become extinct. This possibility is basically what Bradbury’s short story is based on. Addressed in the same article, Sustana says, “The story is not meant to be a specific prediction about the future, but rather to show a possibility that, at any time, could lie just around the corner” (21). I would argue otherwise, because in its very nature it’s a prediction of the future. I think Bradbury saw patterns in society and the cultural images of his time and formed predictions about the future. But I do partially agree with Sustana when she says, “but rather to show a possibility that, at any time, could lie just around the corner.” We are living in a time almost identical to the one that this story was written in. I think the only difference is society’s filter has changed drastically.

Possibly the strongest point this story is trying to make is humanity’s ability to both create and destroy. There are so many points in this story where readers can see a stark comparing image of humanity and our ability to create amazing things. The house serves as a prime example of this. The humans in the story created a smart home which can do amazing things, but in the end, the house was destroyed drastically. In an article titled “Analysis of Ray Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains,” author Nasrullah Mambrol states, “The house is depicted in this way because it represents both humanity and humanity’s failure to save itself” (4). This example—the primary subject of the story—can be a wake-up call of sorts. It can be a call to action for any audience who may read it. Our society is complex, and this story does a very good job at bringing those complexities to light.

The relationship between humans and the technology we create is complex too. It’s amazing how we can turn something so helpful and innovative into something so destructive and unhelpful. The house in the short story was helpful in many ways, but it also brought out a key difference between AI products and the human species: judgement. The house remained on schedule and completed its daily tasks, but in the end, it didn’t feel. It didn’t judge. It didn’t register with what was happening. The house has person-like traits, but it lacks the judgement needed to comprehend that the world has stopped. There are no more inhabitants in the house, the world outside the house, or the planet at all. The house continues with its day, saying things like “Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o’clock, off to school, off to work, run, run, eight-one!” It also completes actions like “the garage chimed and lifted its door to reveal the waiting car” (6). This, too, is a good example of Bradbury’s ability to show something as opposed to state. The house is “living” the rest of its life until, consequently, it is destroyed because of its own actions. This is a uniquely human trait, and it gives the house yet another element of personification.

Throughout Ray Bradbury’s fictional short story, There Will Come Soft Rains, he is able to invoke feelings of fear, anxiety, and worriedness in audiences. He does an amazing job at showing a scene, or painting a picture for readers, rather than stating it. He uses dark images such as the burnt-to-the-wall shadows of a once-living family, as well as the creepy notion that the house has no idea what has happened and continues with its chores and daily duties to instill the idea that humans are great at self-destruction. This running theme throughout the short story makes sure to engrain itself in readers’ minds and ensures that they will hopefully take something away from the reading. There are many examples in the story that support this theme and give it a very dark feeling. Science fiction has been a popular genre for many decades, but I would argue that not many stories are able to instill in readers the kind of rational fear and very probable future that this story does. And I think that’s what makes it such a scary one. It’s a very possible reality and could very well be much nearer than we know or think. Humans are great at creating, but it’s those creations and our lack of awareness that lead to events that took place in There Will Come Soft Rains.

Works Cited

“A Summary and Analysis of Ray Bradbury’s ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’.” Interesting Literature, 12 Feb. 2022.

Sustana, Catherine. “Analysis of ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ by Ray Bradbury.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 8 Aug. 2019.

Mambrol, Nasrullah. “Analysis of Ray Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains.” Literary Theory and Criticism, 17 Jan. 2022.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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.

Share This Book