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There Will Come Soft Rains: Characters & Conflict

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  • 1:16 Conflict
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

What would the world be like if humans became extinct? Ray Bradbury depicts just such a world in 'There Will Come Soft Rains,' a short story with a rather unusual main character. This lesson focuses on both character and conflict in Bradbury's compelling story.

Characters

The main character in the post-apocalyptic world of Ray Bradbury's 'There Will Come Soft Rains' is a house. Humans are extinct, apparently as a result of a nuclear bomb. Bradbury uses personification, or the imposition of human characteristics on inanimate objects, to bring the house to life.

Bradbury imbues the house with emotions typically associated with humans. For example, when the dog tracks mud into the pristine house, the house is 'angry at having to pick up mud, angry at inconvenience.' The house is depicted as so self-absorbed that it develops something akin to paranoia. 'How carefully it had inquired, 'Who goes there? What's the password?' and, getting no answer from lonely foxes and whining cats, it had shut up its windows and drawn shades in an old maidenly preoccupation with self-protection which bordered on a mechanical paranoia.'

Empty of its occupants, it continues to perform the household routines of cleaning and meal preparation. It is likely the house would have continued its zombie-like rituals until some mechanical failure brought a halt to the processes, if a tree limb had not caused destruction of the house.

Conflict

This short story presents an unusual twist on humans in conflict with nature. Since there are no humans - humanity is extinct as a result of technology - the story instead focuses on the products or creations of human labor in conflict with nature. The house, along with all of its cleaning and cooking accoutrements, is shown in conflict with nature. 'It quivered at each sound, the house did. If a sparrow brushed a window, the shade snapped up.' It's almost as if the house senses that nature is a threat to its very existence.

The house battles any elements of nature that manage to breach its solitude. When a leaf is blown into the house, reinforcements stand ready to rout the intruder. 'For not a leaf fragment blew under the door but what the wall panels flipped open and the copper scrap rats flashed swiftly out. The offending dust, hair, or paper, seized in miniature steel jaws, was raced back to the burrows.' Even the weather box affixed to the front of the house expresses concern about natural elements. 'Rain, rain, go away; rubbers, raincoats for today,' it sings.

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