There Will Come Soft Rains: Theme, Setting & Symbolism

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  • 0:01 Theme of 'There Will…
  • 2:06 Setting and Characters
  • 3:19 Symbolism in 'There…
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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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.

This lesson will focus on the themes, setting, and symbolism in Ray Bradbury's short story 'There Will Come Soft Rains'. Bradbury's story is a chilling tale of a post-apocalyptic world in which no humans remain.

Theme of 'There Will Come Soft Rains'

Ray Bradbury's short story 'There Will Come Soft Rains' takes up a common concern of the mid-twentieth century. As technology advanced at a rapid pace, particularly following the development of the atomic bomb in the 1940s, a fear of robots taking the place of humans developed. Some people were concerned that their jobs would someday belong to robots, while others believed that the rate of technological development might outstrip human ability to keep up with the ethical concerns that often accompany technological advances. These concerns about technology naturally made their way into the literary works of the time, and science fiction writers in particular focused on issues like these.

Bradbury focuses on several themes related to these issues in 'There Will Come Soft Rains'. Many of the jobs typically performed by humans have been handed over to robots in the short story. The stove cooks breakfast on its own, and small robot mice clean the house. To some extent, humans have been replaced by technology in this story.

The reader is naturally left to wonder what has become of the house's human residents, and there are few specific clues in the short story. It seems likely that some technological development, invented by humans, has destroyed all the humans on Earth. The dangers of reckless, thoughtless development is one of Bradbury's themes, or the story's main ideas, in 'There Will Come Soft Rains'.

Another theme in the story is that machines can serve as both a help and a hindrance. The machines inside the house are clearly of great benefit as they zoom around cleaning the house. The house contains an oven that cooks breakfast and washes dishes, and robot vacuum cleaners swoop up every particle of dust. Yet a nuclear event has apparently resulted in the destruction of all human life. For every advance in technology, some harm seems to result.

Setting and Characters

The setting, or the time and place of the story, is August 4-5, 2026, inside the only house that remains after a nuclear incident has eradicated all the humans. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki actually occurred in early August, as well.

The setting is meant to take place in the future, and the house is located in Allendale, California. The setting in the story is revealed to the reader by the helpful voice of the house's robot, which periodically announces reminders of the time and the day's scheduled activities.

The story indicates that only traces of the house's human inhabitants remain. At night, a radioactive glow reveals the silhouettes of a man, a woman, and two children. This imagery is reminiscent of the shadows left after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

The human race has been vanquished, so the house becomes the main character in the short story. The house performs many tasks that a human character could do: it cooks, it cleans, and it speaks. The house recites poetry and even seems to express emotion when threatened by fire. 'Fire!' it screams, as it attempts to save itself from the blaze.

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