Ironic Themes in the Short Story There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury

Science Fiction author Ray Bradbury lived in a time primarily dominated by war. He was born into a society recovering from the aftermath of WWI, lived during the advancement of nuclear weaponry, and died while the ethics of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were still being explored. In his writing, specifically the short story There Will Come Soft Rains, he used strong ironic themes to portray a cautionary tale about the potential disaster of nuclear warfare. This story begins with the cacophonous voice of an automated house loudly announcing the time and that it was time to get up. Throughout the story the voice continues, narrating everything from breakfast to bridge to bedtime.

On and on the house drones, going about its daily actions in service of occupants that are mysteriously absent from the day’s events. Shortly after the house is done cleaning itself an injured dog limps onto the porch. The house, recognizing the dog, lets it into the living room where it promptly collapses due to its serious illness. The skinny stature of and oozing sores on the dog indicate that it has been exposed to high levels of radiation. After all of the days activities are neatly tucked away, the house initiates its bedtime routine and asks the occupant to choose a poem to be read.

Hearing no response, the house begins with one it recalls as being a favorite, a poem entitled There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale. Later that evening the weather intensifies, and a tree limb is sent crashing through the kitchen window. A bottle of chemical is shattered and a large fire beings, eventually consuming the entire house until only one wall remains standing. The story ends with the hous repeating the next day’s date over and over again, reporting useless information to a charred landscape. The house’s sickly sweet cheerfulness is the first indication of the theme of irony. As the day goes on and questions begin to form about what possibly happened here, the house carries on with its proud narration. The cheerful tone used to narrate the bridge scene is incredibly ironic, considering not only there are no people to play bridge with in the house, there are no people at all.

“The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes. This was the one house left standing. At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles.” (Bradbury 309) The entire city has crumbled to ruin in a matter of days, yet the house has prepared a game of bridge for them. It carries on with little or no intervention, a true technological wonder. We see from the writing that this house was designed to make life easier, and provide seamless transitions throughout the day. Irony again comes into play when we learn what happened to the occupants of this automated house.

As the sprinklers spring to life in the garden we see five silhouettes burned against an outer wall of the house. From their positioning it can be understood that they were not expecting to be vaporized. The children are happily throwing a ball back and forth while the father mows the lawn and the mother picks flowers. Later on in the story when the bedraggled dog collapses onto the floor and convulses violently, it is confirmed that a nuclear holocaust has taken place. The house’s continued actions are ironic considering that there is no longer a family to serve in a city that has all but been wiped off the map. The strongest example of irony from Bradbury’s story is the house’s choice of poem. At bedtime the house randomly chooses a favorite poem of the occupants and begins to recite it to empty beds. The poem is real, and Bradbury’s choice to include it is wrought with irony. The poem’s wording is vague, referencing a war from the past. “And not one will know of the war, not one Will care at last when it is done.

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