Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate

“August 2026:There Will Come Soft Rains ” is not a warm or inspiring piece that stirs something  within me but I cannot complain that the short story lacks energy. Inhuman energy it has in abundance!

Written in 1950, the story reflects the Cold War fear of nuclear war and human if not global annihilation. Americans in the 1950’s, were trying to comprehend a strange and frightening new (nuclear) reality, where the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) was supposed to provide a grotesque reassurance of continued normality. In the story “August 2026:There Will Come Soft Rains ” , an automated house (supposedly a home) chronologically and systematically mocks any hope that we may have had of comforting human warmth, and the familiar, when we started to read. The house  first teases us with images of “perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunnyside up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk” (Bradbury 1, par 2) as it eerily uses foreshadowing “..as if it were afraid that nobody would [wake up]” (Bradbury 1, par 1), and then lays bare the horrifying reality outside ” The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes….At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow that could be seen for miles”(Bradbury 1, par 8). We, the human reader, are left empty handed, insignificant and confused.

Literary analysis: Personification (“the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman” : Google). The story has no human characters, the closest thing in the story to something alive is a dying dog “once huge and fleshy, but now gone to bone and covered with sores”(Bradbury 2, par 3). The narrator uses  personification to give life to this automated house and it’s mechanical cohorts: the  “…angry mice” (Bradbury 2, par 3) and the incinerator .”..evil Baal in a dark corner” (Bradbury 2, par 4), and thus turns  the house the main character of the story. The purpose here, I think,  is to show how inhospitable and inhuman this environment is, an environment that was supposed to serve mankind continues without him (for a while), hollow and without purpose, mocking mankind: the inventor surpassed and destroyed by his own Frankenstein invention.

Structure: The narrator mechanically paces the story with a chronological timeclock, like something from “Modern Times” ( Charlie Chaplin). The time (in italics and as if from a script)  announces the tasks as the house carries them out “Ten-fifteen. The garden sprinklers whirled up in golden founts”(Bradbury 1, par 9), again, hollow acts without purpose; a mechanical epitaph to a brilliant yet horribly fallible inventor.

Metaphor: “The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants…But the Gods had gone away”(Bradbury 2, par 3). An alter to whom, the God’s of course: man’s altar to himself. Technology was man’s altar to himself and like the Greek mythological character Icarus, the son of Daedalus, who dared to fly too close to the sun (also a ball of nuclear fission) and who’s wings of feathers and wax melted in the radiated heat, mankind has been punished for his sin of hubris.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Dante’s Inferno, a little dramatic I know but appropriate when we consider the hell that awaits us if anybody (i.e. Kim Jong-un or President Trump) makes the wrong move in a nuclear stalemate. I find it alarming that we now depend on Russia and China for wisdom.

Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente.
Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore:
fecemi la divina potestate,
la somma sapienza e ‘l primo amore.
Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate

Translation: Through me you go to the grief wracked city; Through me you go to everlasting pain; Through me you go a pass among lost souls. Justice inspired my exalted Creator: I am a creature of the Holiest Power, of Wisdom in the Highest and of Primal Love. Nothing till I was made was made, only eternal beings. And I endure eternally. Abandon all hope — Ye Who Enter Here.

 

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