ENGL 2329, T/Th 9:30
August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains
In 1950, Ray Bradbury wrote the story August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains, a post-apocalyptic tale of a house standing alone in a world destroyed by nuclear war. The timing of the story is significant, as the world was still reeling from the effects of the Hiroshima bomb. People were terrified at just how powerful the nuclear bomb was and feared that they might face the same fate of the citizens of Hiroshima.
Bradbury uses this story to question human’s reliance on technology. The house was created for the sole purpose of serving mankind. Despite the house’s wondrous skills, the house cannot save the family, or humans, from the viciousness of a nuclear bomb. On the other hand, the house does not require humans to keep working – in fact, throughout the story it doesn’t even notice that they are gone.
By the time the reader is exposed to the house, the owners have been eradicated, “their images burned on wood in one titanic instant”. (Bradbury 25) The house continues to make breakfast, have little robotic mice that clean the house, and even read poetry for, essentially, no one. When the story begins, it appears that machinery has triumphed over humans. Humankind might have fallen beneath the powerful nuclear bomb, but technology has not. Furthermore, while the family relied on the house to take care of them, the house does not require them to survive. (Dominianni 50) However, as the story proceeds, the reader watches as the house is attacked by a fire. As the house scrambles to save itself, there is a sense of panic as each part of the house is activated. Doors “[spring] tightly shut” and “blind robot faces [peer] down with faucet mouths gushing green chemical”. (Bradbury 27) In the end, the house succumbs to the blaze and crumbles. The only bit of technology remaining is the dying voice of the house, proclaiming the current day to be “August 5, 2026”. (Bradbury 28) While technology has ultimately lost the battle of survival, humans lost the war long ago.
There Will Come Soft Rains gets its title after Sara Teasdale’s poem of the same name. Bradbury uses this poem as a warning of just how little technology and nature care for the endurance of humanity. “Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree / if mankind perished utterly / And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn / Would scarcely know that we were gone.” This is seen throughout the story, as the house continues to function without the aid of the family that owns it. Humans developed this technology to help them, but the technology does not care if humans are around to use its services.
One of the most jarring themes in the story is the realization of just how “robotic” the house is. (Hicks) There is a distinct lack of human emotions. From the beginning, one can see how efficient the house is – the stove ejects “eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunnyside up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two glasses of milk”, a voice informs the family that the “insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills”, the weather box announces the weather, and “an aluminum wedge [scrapes the uneaten food] into the sink”, where they are cleaned. (Bradbury 25) While having a house that takes care of a family so well is enviable, it’s almost scary how inhuman the house really is. This is the most obvious when a starving dog manages to find its way into the house. Instead of compassion, the mice are “angry at having to pick up [its] mud, angry at inconvenience”. (Bradbury 26) The dog smells pancakes cooking but the house will not open its door to let it eat. When the dog dies in a fit of hunger, the mice, without any sadness, push the dog into the incinerator.
Ultimately, Bradbury warns not about the advancement of technology but rather the complete dependence on it. (Dominianni 49). The conveniences that the house provides appear to be beneficial, but in the end are completely useless. Bradbury also points out the lack of “humanity” within the machinery of the house. Instead of a family having to cook and clean, the house does it for them. There is no love within the house; only a cold, emotionless proficiency. While it would require more work, perhaps it would be more meaningful for a family to work together to keep their house running properly. Instead of being a mere house, it would become a home.
Do you believe that we as a society have too much dependence on technology these days?
If given the chance, would you live in a house such as the one described in this story?
What advantages do you think technology gives us? What about the disadvantages?
Bradbury, Ray. “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains.” Literature for Composition: Essays, Stories, Poems, and Plays. Ed. Sylvan Barnett, William E. Caine, and William Burto. 9th edition. Longman, 2011. 24-29
Dominianni, Robert. “Ray Bradbury’s 2026: A Year With Current Value.” The English Journal 73 (1984): 49-51.
Hicks, Jennifer. “An Overview of ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’.” Short Stories for Students. Detroit: Gale, 2002.