This little jem came out of the book The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. It's a very short read and is available to read for free on the interwebs. If you would like to read it, enjoy. Click here for the text: There Will Come Soft Rains then read the rest of the post.
I read that story quite a while ago when I read The Martian Chronicles. It's stood out for me in stark detail for years. The house taking care of itself. The feeling of repetition. Day following day with not the slightest disturbance to change the ebb and flow of time. I also enjoyed the slow reveal of the story. Up to a certain point the family might just be on a vacation of sorts and just forgot to turn of the artificially intelligent house. Great read.
I have even stumbled over it several times in many different PA anthologies. This story stands on its own apart from the other stories in The Martian Chronicles as well as in anthologies I've encountered it in. I decided to take time to write about it for this post because I recently found a blog titled There Will Come Soft Rains.
I had been trying to find a workable (and interesting) URL for this blog and had been using different iconic examples from different books, poems and even song lyrics. The point here is that when I tried There Will Come Soft Rains I found it to be taken but not just taken -- oh no! -- it had been taken by a teacher who was using blogging as a way to have students respond to different literature. Her site was simply giving directions to her students. She used her comments as a place for students to turn in the work. A pretty slick idea. I just wish she hadn't parked on so many good blog titles for this. Oh well.
***yar, here there be spoilers***
Anyhow the point is that I thought it would be fun to respond to the questions she asked her students as the meat of my post today. Here they are:
Who is the main character in this story? Explain.
The main character in a story is the protagonist. In a work of literature to determine the protagonist you ask yourself who changes over the course of the work. In this book there are about four 'characters' mentioned, a narrator, the house, a dog, a fire. The narrator is constant. Just a voice giving details. The dog enters the story and then exits quickly. The fire is a foil to the house. The fire is the agent of change. The main character is the house itself. At the beginning of the piece the house is cultured and refined. It is systematic. All things are ordered and strictly scheduled; regimented. It is after all a machine and that's the way a machine is expected to act. When the tree branch breaks the window and starts a fire the house changes. At first it marshals it defenses and fights the fire but as the fire gains in strength the house begins to act erratically and with fear. At the end it accepts its fate but tries to pack in life as it hurries to prepare food on a mammoth scale.
What is the main conflict in story? Classify it according to our examples of external conflict. Be sure to give details and examples.
I don't know what "our examples" are but I would say the conflict is 'Order vs. Chaos' if I had to choose conflict. And it is an external conflict. The house is definitely not struggling with itself here. Order is symbolised by human society and also by the exact timed out schedule of the house. Chaos is symbolized by the fire. Both types of fire; the more conventional fire lit by the stove when the branch breaks the window and the less ordinary fire lit by the nuclear bombs that fell on the city. With the example of the 'Order vs. Chaos' struggle between fire and the city, the city loses quickly. It cannot struggle to defend itself in any way. Later when the branch breaks the window and the fire starts, the house mounts an intense and furious but ultimately futile defense. The specifics of the defense gets into personification and I will respond to the question a bit later.
What major event caused the house to be empty?
Nuclear war. This is part of the slow reveal. The story begins in the house on what could be an ordinary day. The viewpoint expands slowly until the outside of the house and the city is revealed. The description of the burned silhouettes of the family doing ordinary things is the tell. Mom working in the flowerbed, dad mowing the lawn, son and daughter throwing the ball back and forth. It even pulls back further to show the radioactively glowing city. The house became vacant as a result of man's final war.
Look for instances of personification in the story.
Personification is making a nonhuman object human by giving it human characteristics. Examples of personification throughout the writing include the house being compared to a spinster as it went through its daily duties. So much attention given that the house is 'paranoid'. The best example of personification come when the house tries to save itself from the fire. It is described as an army doing battle with he flames. Later it speaks of the house with a 'skeleton' as having skin red vein and capillaries.
The house isn't the only character in the short story though. The fire is also described as being clever as it wages its battle against the house.
What kind of feelings were elicited while you read the story?
I guess I felt sad. The house was left all on its own. It was a sentient being that was able to experience dread of death. The family should have left some sort of program in place for a time when it no longer needed to serve anyone inside it.
The scene of the burned silhouettes has always stayed with me. A truly great work of fiction.
Here are some different ways to enjoy this fantastic story:
Radio Play: There_Will_Come_Soft_Rains.mp3
Comic Book: There Will Come Soft Rains.html
Nifty Animation (Watership Down style with ironic Russian dialogue):