“August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” is an amazing short story written by the science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury. It’s placed in a world where humankind seems to have gone extinct and the only trace of their existence so far is an automated house programmed to ease the former resident’s life. Near the end of the day, the house gets destroyed because the ongoing storm outside the house knocked a tree into it causing a chain reaction that resulted in the house being destroyed. What stuck out to me the most was the amount of focus Bradbury put on the house. He made it clear that animals such as a dog exists so why center the story around an inanimate object over the only other surviving member of the family? It’s almost like Bradbury wanted us to see what life was like for technology without anyone to care for it.
During the beginning of the story, it becomes obvious that the house is almost like a housekeeper by doing all the cooking and cleaning around the house. At one point, the house reads the poem “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale which outlines the situation, “Robins will wear their feathery fire/Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire/And not one will know of the war, not one/Will care at last when it is done./Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree/If mankind perished utterly.”(Bradbury, 3). It’s interesting and a little ironic that the house just happened to pick this poem. The residents of the house are gone and it continues its daily routine as though they were still alive. The house, the trees, and the animals, have no clue that the family is missing, save for the dog. Eventually, this poem applies to the house as well. It gets destroyed at the end but no one will be around to know it.
Reading about the house and its purpose reminded me a little of the the Machine from E.M. Forster’s short story, “The Machine Stops.” The Machine is the omnipotent being that practically spoon feeds humans while the house is more like an upgraded computer that simply makes life more convenient for humans. Both even suffer the unfortunate fate of “death” but the destruction of the house was the only one to make me sad. Throughout the story, it does things for the family such as making food, cleaning the house, and reading to them aloud, even if they’re not present. It’s not a sentient being but the things it does for the family is comparable to a child eagerly doing chores to please its parents. It has no idea that its been left alone and is just waiting for the residents to return. When the tree falls into the house and starts a fire, you can see the desperation of it trying to stay alive, “And the voices wailed Fire, fire, run, run, like a tragic nursery rhyme, a dozen voices, high, low, like children dying in a forest, alone, alone.” (Bradbury, 4). Bradbury characterized the house like a struggling human, showing that even technology doesn’t live forever when alone.
Theoretically, if the humans were still around, would it have been any different? After all, the house couldn’t even save itself. This brings up another similarity the house has to the Machine in which they both have limited areas of influence. Both the Machine and the house were destroyed due to lack of management. In “The Machine Stops”, people could have taken care of the Machine to ensure it didn’t break down. In this story, the owners of the house could have cut down the tree to avoid the possibility of it falling into the house. Humans need to take caution when managing technology though because it’s implied that the family were killed by some explosion, “The five spots of paint-the man, the woman, the children, the ball-remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer.” (Bradbury, 1).
Even if humanity perished, life will go on without humans since the universe doesn’t revolve around us. I think Bradbury put a lot of focus on the house and its capabilities because this is a message designed to warn us. Humans are too lazy and self absorbed. We depend on technology so much and making it serve just us is the wrong thing to do. The house’s downfall shows that technology needs humans just as much as we need it. It might not have any feelings but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care for them any less. The way we manage technology may cause more harm than good and we need to be more aware of that.