There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury
In There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury we have the theme of suffering, dependency, empathy and nature. Taken from his The Martian Chronicles collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bradbury may be exploring the theme of suffering. It is left to the reader’s imagination as to what happened all the humans in the house but four silhouettes on the wall by the side of the house suggest that they have been victims of a nuclear apocalypse. Something that is further reiterated by the fact that the house is the only house standing and there is a radioactive glow outside. This may be important as the reader (if they believe a nuclear apocalypse occurred) immediately gets a sense of the damage that has been caused and how instant death came to the family who own the house. It is possible that Bradbury is suggesting that the reality of a nuclear apocalypse is that nobody will survive. It is as though Bradbury is warning society. Something that is a little clearer to the reader when we discover that the story was written only five years (1950) after the nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. As to who may have launched the nuclear attack may not be important considering that any nuclear attack in the twenty first century would involve mutually assured destruction.
It is also noticeable that the entire house is operated by robots and machines. From cooking meals to running the bath to choosing what poem to listen to. Everything is run by machines. Which may be important as Bradbury could be suggesting that in the future mankind will become dependent on machines. As to whether this is a good thing is left to each individual reader to decide. It is also noticeable that there is no sense of mourning in the story. Everybody is dead so nobody is left to mourn anybody. The one creature that was alive. The dog. Is unceremoniously removed from the kitchen when he dies and is disposed of. Teasdale’s poem also suggests that nature would not care if humans were dead or gone and it is somewhat ironic that the robot chooses to recite this poem for a now dead Mrs McClellan. It is as though there is nobody left to care. The robots and machines are without feelings so they don’t care and the one living creature that could show empathy (the dog) is now also dead. It is possible the Bradbury is suggesting that this is the price that mankind will pay for its folly (nuclear apocalypse). There will be no trace of mankind or any other living creature remaining.
It is also possible the Bradbury is suggesting how futile it might be to have an automated home (or world). The robots and machines carry on regardless even though there are no occupants in the house. They might provide comfort to an individual but they still nonetheless can be useless tools. There is no point in having a fully automated home that is still performing daily duties when there is nobody home. If anything Bradbury could be suggesting that when it comes to technology and advances in technology it may be more appropriate to slow down. Rather than having an industry that is so enthused with moving forward. What is also noticeable about the robots and machines in the house is that they are all either timed or sensory. The oven and the mice cleaning being two examples. They don’t necessarily think for themselves. Unlike humans. However they do suffer as all the humans have suffered when the house goes on fire. Despite their valiant efforts to beat the fire. The fire or nature eventually wins. Except for one wall standing at the end of the story. It’s wiring still in place.
The introduction of the fire may be significant as it draws slightly on Teasdale’s poem about nature not caring if mankind exists or not. The last remaining house after a nuclear apocalypse has been beaten by a fire that has been driven by the wind. Nature can destroy the last relics of mankind whether mankind likes to believe it or not. The most powerful weapon that mankind has is a nuclear bomb yet nature has in her arsenal even more powerful and simpler weapons that can destroy. Fire and wind being the examples that are used in the story. Not even the machines can defeat nature. Just as mankind is useless when it comes to a nuclear apocalypse so too are machines to nature’s simpler threats. At the end of the story neither man or machine wins yet nature is still standing. Unbeaten by anything that mankind has thrown at it. Which leaves the reader suspecting that though mankind has been obliterated nature will continue as it always has. Nature doesn’t need mankind and mankind’s struggle for power (apocalypse) will not displace nature from its position of strength.