Ray Bradbury is an author of contemporary young adult and science fiction, though his stories are neither juvenile nor unbelievable. His published works include Dandelion Wine and Fahrenheit 451. Well known for blending incredible and fantastic ideas with natural and mundane details of daily life, Bradbury crafts believable yet bizarre alternatives to the universe most of us inhabit. The result is often heartbreaking and hits strangely close to home.
Bradbury makes no exception in There Will Come Soft Rains, a short story painting human annihilation with the negative space in a scene of sudden nuclear holocaust.
The story opens in an empty but noisy house, where robot servants are carrying on with "life"-making breakfast, reminding the children to get to school on time, cleaning up, and reading poetry to the newly empty house. As we proceed further into the story, it becomes apparent that this desertion reaches past the house, and into society, as far, at least, as the eye can see. The contrast is bleak between the frenetic energy of the housekeepers and the still life on the outside of the house. The robots seem worried and the entire house is demonstrated to be afraid, shutting the drapes at the slightest provocation by the wind or a passing bird. We are left to wonder whether the house fears the consequences of desertion by its human masters...or the return of the "gods" themselves.
Originally published in 1950 as part of The Martian Chronicles-The Silver Locusts, There Will Come Soft Rains is explicitly based off a poem of the same name by Sara Teasdale, describing the indifference of nature to our seemingly determined and repetitive efforts to remove ourselves from the planet once and for all. The poem is artfully placed in the story as a reiteration of the driving theme.
There Will Come Soft Rains
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
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;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
This writeup contains public domain text written by Sara Teasdale and taken from Flame and Shadow