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Classification of There Will Come Soft Rains

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It is the morning of August 24, 2026, and one house still lives. Inside a voice announces that it is seven o’clock and time for breakfast. On the stove, a meal for four is being prepared. Time passes on, and the same automated voice announces that it is time for work and school. Although there are signs of human life; there is not a human in view. The food is left untouched, and the house begins to clean itself. At nine-fifteen, a swarm of “tiny robot mice’ (Bradbury) come out of the wall and begin to clean the house. Once they are finished they take the trash they cleaned up back into the wall and drop it down into an incinerator. At ten, the sun comes out, and the house is seen surrounded by a destroyed city. On the outside of the house, the silhouette of four people is burned onto the wall. At twelve a dog is sat at the porch whining to be let in. The house did not open its doors to anything, but it recognized the dog’s whines so it let it go in. It hurriedly ran up the stairs in search of its humans and is faced with emptiness. At nine o’clock the house begins the preparations to put the children to sleep. The automated voice speaks up and asks what poem should be recited. Since there was no response, it chooses a recalled favorite: “There will come soft rains.” At ten o’clock a tree crashes into the side of the house, knocking a cleaning solvent over the stove resulting in a fire. The flames quickly move throughout the house, but the house is also quick in attempting to save itself. The mice are chasing the fire while shooting water, and the ceiling is spraying water, but the water supply soon runs out, and the fire continues to devour the upper part of the house. Snakes spit green foam at the fire in an attempt to subdue the fire. It is no use and the fire brings the house crashing down. “There will come soft rains” is a post-apocalyptic science fiction story, and the literary elements of setting, character, and point of view help further classify it into the post-apocalyptic sub-genre.

Science fiction is a genre that explores a world that is not far from reality. Stories in the science fiction genre hang over the edge of what is real and what is not. “Science fiction envisions alternative worlds with believably consistent rules and structures, set apart somehow from the ordinary or familiar world of our time and place” (Beshero-Bondar). The stories are set in an alternative universe, usually in the future but not always, where advanced technology is present and is a big contributor to the story. Technology is usually the reason for conflict in the stories. Scientific elements need to be present in the stories to be considered science fiction. Ray Bradbury’s story falls into the subcategory of post-apocalyptic.

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Post-apocalyptic is a science fiction sub-genre that focuses on describing the aftermath of an event that destroyed the world. Stories categorized in this sub-genre are set to take place after the world has gone through a catastrophe. The events can “be anything from war, to plague, to natural or man-made disasters” (Seisser). Essentially it is any catastrophic event that wipes out humanity. The stories will follow the survival journey of the characters in the new world. The setting is the most important aspect of a post-apocalyptic story.

“There will come soft rains” takes place in the future after a nuclear explosion has occurred. Early on in the story, we are given a date, August 4, 2026, and the story takes place in a house that has multiple forms of advanced technology. First, we are introduced to the smart clock that announces the day’s activities and then to the electronic mice that clean the house. This story was published five years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. Nuclear shadows became a symbol of the bombings, and it can be inferred that a nuclear explosion occurred in the story after we are given an outside description of the house. The entire house is charred except for one wall. There are four silhouettes, caught in the middle of normal activities, outlined on the black wall. “A city of rubble and ashes” (Bradbury) surrounds the only house left standing. During the night the city gives “off a radioactive glow”(Bradbury) that can be seen from miles away. No human characters are fighting to survive in the story, but there is one non-human character carrying on with life despite the occurrences.

Even though there is nothing left to live for, the house continues to keep itself alive. The story opens with a smart clock announcing, to an empty house, that the day has begun. Robots take over normal activities and continue to keep the day’s schedule. The house maintains itself clean and organized. It washes the dishes after nobody eats the food, and it sends out mice to clean the house. In an attempt to continue standing, It closes itself off to the world and does not let anything in. Nothing can touch the house or go near the house without it taking action. It practiced “self-protection which bordered on a mechanical paranoia” (Bradbury). When the house goes up in flames, the house fights to stay alive. It sends out the mice to put the fire out and sprays water from the ceiling. Even when the fire proves to be stronger, the house keeps fighting it by sending out green snakes that foam at the mouth. The story is effectively told through a third-person point of view.

“There will come soft rains” is told through a point of view that allows the reader to follow the aftermath of a catastrophic event. Using the third-person point of view, the author effortlessly leads the readers through the action making sure to leave nothing out. He does this by using timestamps to describe the events going on at a certain time. The story is always moving forward and never backward. Multiple ideas are left for the reader to dissect because the point of view describes things as they are. The point of view perfectly captures the house’s attempts at fighting to stay alive from the beginning of the story until the end.

Ray Bradbury’s “There will come soft rains” is classified in the science fiction genre, and the story’s elements make it fall under the post-apocalyptic sub-genre. The story is set in the year 2026, and due to the nuclear bombing, only one technologically advanced house is left in a destroyed city. Even after the owners of the house have perished, the house continues to follow the daily schedule while simultaneously protecting itself from any outside danger. Readers are effortlessly guided throughout the story with the third person point of view, which allows them to follow the character’s attempt to survive in the new world.  

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