There Will Come Soft Rains (short story)

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"There Will Come Soft Rains"
House No. 1 Yucca Flat (1953-03-17).gif
A house is destroyed in less than 2.3 seconds at the U.S. Upshot-Knothole Annie atomic bomb test.
AuthorRay Bradbury
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction
Published inCollier's Weekly
Publication typePeriodical
Media typePrint magazine
Publication dateMay 6, 1950 (issue date)
Preceded by"April 2057: The Long Years"
Followed by"October 2057: The Million-Year Picnic"

"There Will Come Soft Rains" is a science fiction short story by author Ray Bradbury written as a chronicle about a lone house that stands intact in a California city that has otherwise been obliterated by a nuclear bomb, and then is destroyed in a fire caused by a windstorm. First published in 1950 about future catastrophes in two different versions in two separate publications, a one-page short story in Collier's magazine and a chapter of the fix-up novel The Martian Chronicles, the author regarded it as "the one story that represents the essence of Ray Bradbury."[1] Bradbury's foresight in recognizing the potential for the complete self-destruction of humans by nuclear war in the work was recognized by the Pulitzer Prize Board in conjunction with awarding a Special Citation in 2007 that noted, "While time has (mostly) quelled the likelihood of total annihilation, Bradbury was a lone voice among his contemporaries in contemplating the potentialities of such horrors."[2] The author considered the short story as the only one in The Martian Chronicles to be a work of science fiction.[3]

Publication history[edit]

The short story first appeared in the May 6, 1950 issue of Collier's magazine,[4] and was revised and included as a chapter titled "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains" in Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles that was also first published in May 1950. The official publication dates for the two versions were only two days apart. The 1997 edition of The Martian Chronicles advanced all dates in the 1950 edition by 31 years, changing the title to "August 2057: There Will Come Soft Rains".

Themes[edit]

Anti-war message[edit]

Ray Bradbury said the drafting of "There Will Come Soft Rains" was motivated by his fear of the destruction that could result from nuclear war during the Cold War, as the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949 and the United States' announcement that it was starting development of a hydrogen bomb on January 31, 1950.[5] In addition, the author was deeply concerned, during the time he wrote the story, that atomic bomb development was reckless because scientists running an atomic bomb test performed by the United States at the Pacific Proving Grounds during 1946 "weren’t quite sure whether the earth wouldn’t catch on fire."[6]

The story's anti-war message is conveyed in several ways. First, Bradbury gave the short story the title of Sara Teasdale's anti-war poem "There Will Come Soft Rains" first published in 1918 during World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic. As in Teasdale's poem, Bradbury's story is devoid of human beings since they have all been killed. Second, the story chronicles the horrific results of a nuclear bomb blast. In addition, the story's events in The Martian Chronicles version occur on the eve of, and on August 5, 2057 (2026 in the first edition) to commemorate August 5, 1945, the date in the United States that the country detonated a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima, Japan during World War II, the first ever attack that used a nuclear weapon.

Separation of mankind from the natural world[edit]

Humankind's separation from the natural world and the conflicts that result from the separation is a theme in many Bradbury works, particularly, The Martian Chronicles. The very existence of the McClellan house establishes an antagonistic relationship between the family and its house with the natural world that illustrates the Man against Nature literary theme for conflict. (See the Characters section.)

A universe indifferent to life[edit]

The recitation of Sara Teasdale's poem carries with it the point of view that the universe is indifferent to life. (See "There Will Come Soft Rains" - Influences.) The serenity in her poetic settings for swallows, frogs, and robins that must eat other creatures in order to survive, occurs because war is not in their natures and not due to an absolute absence of violence. In an interview, Bradbury's view of such indifference does not reflect a belief in the viewpoint of science. In affirming his belief in "Darwin and God together" and that all creation is a "mystery", he asked himself the question, "How come there's life on Earth?" His answer was, "It just happened. We just don't know."[7]

Role in The Martian Chronicles[edit]

Human values and science and technology[edit]

"August 2057: There Will Come Soft Rains" is the second of three chapters set in 2057 that end The Martian Chronicles and deal with circumstances on Mars and Earth related to human development and management of science and technology. Bradbury's views on how an arms race led to nuclear war are expressed in the last chapter "October 2057: The Million-Year Picnic".

The end of the United States and human civilization[edit]

In Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles the destruction of Allendale, California during the summer of 2057 is an event of a Great World War that envelopes Earth that started during November 2036, presumably ending the United States as a nation. Radio transmissions from Earth to Mars continue until they cease sometime in October 2057, as told in the chapter "October 2057: The Million-Year Picnic".

American middle class war-time prosperity[edit]

The description of the McClellan home that provides for automated meal preparation and clean-up, household cleaning, and entertainment indicate a very comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle and a very high standard of living for, what readers of the Collier's version know and what Chronicles readers are to assume, is a middle class family. The family's comforts are acquired during a war in which the United States was a combatant for nearly twenty-one years.

Characters[edit]

The house as protagonist[edit]

The central object of "There Will Come Soft Rains" is a highly-automated house that "survives" the destruction of the city around it. The house's automation and automated devices within it are functionally similar to smart home technology that includes the capabilities of intelligent personal assistants. The personification of the actions and reactions of automated devices creates the illusion that the inanimate automated objects are alive, an illusion the author stated is a metaphor,[8] which enables the house to take the role as the story's protagonist. Consequently, since the living house is only metaphorical, its continued existence is not freed from maintenance all electro-mechanical machines require, and so the house was fated for eventual destruction once all the things needed for its maintenance were destroyed.

The protagonist's role is explicitly described in the story — it is metaphorically an "altar" supported by "ten thousand attendants" that service the "gods" who are the house's occupants, the McClellan family. The "ritual religion" of the altar and attendants is obedient service in support for the constant and continuing physical needs and protection of their gods to enable the gods to live the lifestyle of their choice.

Nature as an antagonist[edit]

A consequence of the house's role as protagonist, is the antagonist role of Nature, in personified actions of wind, tree, and fire acting against what appears as the house's actions to preserve itself that cause the house to metaphorically "die." However, the antagonist role of Nature is not limited to the conflict involving the destruction of the house. The McClellans need constant and continuing protection from the outside environment — weather, stray animals, even birds, in a manner that is characterized as bordering on "mechanical paranoia". The antagonistic relationship between the house and Nature is established once the house is activated. Conflict between the house and Nature never ends until the house is somehow deactivated. The conflict also explicitly demonstrates the symbolic separation between humankind and the natural world.

The McClellan family's dog[edit]

The household dog is the family's pet that is an innocent victim of catastrophe. The dog's life and death contrast sharply with that of the McClellans. In life, the house's automation does nothing for the dog's care or feeding. In death, the dog survives the bomb blast only to suffer and perish from radiation sickness and hunger.

The suffering and death of the McClellan family dog as an innocent victim of war is an example of using an animal to convey anti-war sentiment in Western art and literature as in The Dog by Francisco Goya (one of the author's favorite painters[9]), that was painted after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, dogs and horses in Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front that was set in World War I, and Pablo Picasso's horse and bird in Guernica that was painted during the Spanish Civil War.

Sara Teasdale[edit]

While Sara Teasdale is not present in Bradbury's short story, her presence is represented by "There Will Come Soft Rains" and her other works known to Mrs. McClellan. The house serves as her voice in that it recites her words. The recitation of her poem against war after a war ends all human civilization is ironic.

The McClellan family[edit]

The McClellans are a nuclear family of four and victims of war, who were killed outside and beside their residence by a nuclear bomb blast before the chronicle begins. The story's depiction of the McClellans as "gods" is not metaphorical. In an interview, Bradbury said he believes "Man is a fusion of the human and the divine. I believe that the flesh of man contains the very soul of God, that we are, finally, irrevocably and responsibly, God Himself incarnate, that we shall carry this seed of God into space.”[10]

The characters are described through the actions of the house and the image of them on the singed surface of an outside wall — the parents doing lawn and garden chores and their children playing with a ball. Collectively, the McClellans appear to be an ordinary American middle class family. The story's title is based on Mrs. McClellan's fondness for listening to recitations of Sara Teasdale's poems during the evening. Other than the pacifist theme of Teasdale's poem, there are no other clear indications of whether or not members of the family supported, opposed, or were indifferent to the war they fell victim to.

Plot[edit]

The texts for The Martian Chronicles versions of "There Will Come Soft Rains" are the same except for dates. The differences between the original and The Martian Chronicles stories may seem minor, but some are significant. In particular, the Chronicles version indicates the author's intent on strengthening the anti-war message of the story by commemorating the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and implicitly emphasizing the pacifistic sentiments of Sara Teasdale. In addition, the Chronicles version presents a leaner, more refined narrative with the omission of a prologue contained in the original and several changes to sentence structure.

Plot for the The Martian Chronicles 1997 edition[edit]

(Note: The events in the short story in the first edition of The Martian Chronicles take place in 2026. Dates were advanced because events in the novel covered the years 1999 to 2026. As 1999 approached, all dates were advanced 31 years to keep the Chronicles in the reader's future.)

"August 2057: There Will Come Soft Rains" is about the operation and destruction of an unoccupied, highly automated house in Allendale, California that is the residence of the McClellan family, starting in the waking hours of August 4, 2057 and ending in the morning of the next day. The narrative follows the house operating as if it was occupied, including automated announcements, meal preparation, after-meal clean up, bed preparation, house cleaning, yard maintenance, and entertainment. In particular, the house, during the morning prepares the family for employment and school on a rainy day. The morning routine includes watering an outdoor yard and garden that reveals that a nuclear bomb destroyed the rest of Allendale, and that the explosion singed the western face of the house except in places where objects were directly in front of it. The singed face captured an image of people, presumably members of the McClellan family, unaware of any danger, at the moment they were incinerated by the bomb blast. At noon, the family's dog, suffering from radiation exposure, finds its way into the house and dies moments later, and then its corpse is disposed by the house's cleaning systems two hours later. The afternoon routine includes setting up an outdoor patio for a bridge game and animating, using film projectors, a nursery to entertain children. The evening routine includes the house's automation asking Mrs. McClellan whether she would like to hear a poem, and upon receiving no response, reciting "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Sara Teasdale, who is noted by the entertainment system as Mrs. McClellan's favorite poet. After ten o'clock at night, a wind-blown tree branch crashes through the kitchen window and causes cleaning solvent to spill over the stove and ignite. The fire spreads and the house's automated systems try to fight and contain it while other automated systems start to malfunction. The automated efforts fail to stop the fire and by the following morning, the house is a collapsed, smoldering ruin, except for a single wall that contains the announcement system which continues to operate, though defectively, endlessly repeating, "Today is August 5, 2057," ending the story.

Plot differences with the Collier's magazine original publication[edit]

This section provides a list of significant differences between the original and the Chronicles versions of the short story in the 1997 edition.

  • The original story's events occur on April 28 and April 29, 1985, compared to August 4 and August 5, 2057 in The Martian Chronicles. The change in dates reflects Bradbury's shift to commemorate the date for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II rather than to have events occur during Spring consistent with Teasdale's poem.
  • The original story begins with a two paragraph prologue that was omitted from the Chonicles version. The first paragraph notes that the house was built in 1980, that it was like many other houses built that year, and that it was occupied by the nuclear four-member McClellan family, who "lived happily even while the world trembled." The single sentence second paragraph mentions "the happy time was over" for the McClellans by describing the advent of a nuclear war that occurs on a date that is not mentioned.
  • The Chronicles version includes the opening of a garage door at 8:01am to allow the departure of the automobile inside.
  • The dog enters the house at 10:15am in the original version and at noon in the Chronicles version. The dog's corpse is removed starting at 1:00pm in the original version and at 2:00pm in the Chronicles version.
  • The original story does not include the 4:30pm animation of the nursey to entertain children present in the Chronicles version. Bradbury uses the film projection for children to enhance the separation from nature theme in that the animated cartoons are fantasies created by humans as opposed to dipictions of real animals living in the natural world.
  • For the recitation of Teasdale's poem, the original version mentions Teasdale as "a favorite" poet of Mrs. McClellan, while the Chronicles version mentions Teasdale as her "favorite" poet. The Chronicles version emphasizes Mrs. McClellan's familiarity with Teasdale's works.

Adaptations[edit]

  • An adaptation was broadcast on June 17, 1950 as the 11th episode of Dimension X, a science-fiction radio program.[11]
  • In 1953, an adaptation of the story was published in issue 17 of the comic book Weird Fantasy, with art by Wally Wood.
  • The story was made into a radio play for the X Minus One series and broadcast on December 5, 1956.[12]
  • In 1962, actor Burgess Meredith recorded this story, which was released on LP by Prestige Lively Arts (30004), along with "Marionettes, Inc.", also by Bradbury.
  • in 1962, the BBC Third Programme broadcast a dramatization by Nasta Pain, with original music by John Carol Case.[13]
  • In 1975, actor Leonard Nimoy's rendition of this story and Ray Bradbury's Usher II, also from The Martian Chronicles, were released on Caedmon Records.[14]
  • In 1977, August the Fourth, 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It used the resources of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop under the direction of Malcolm Clarke.[15]
  • In 1984, Soviet studio Uzbekfilm produced "There Will Come Soft Rains" as a short animated film.[16] (ru)
  • In 1992, Lebbeus Woods adapted the story to the third issue of the comic book series Ray Bradbury Chronicles.
  • In 2008, the post-apocalyptic game Fallout 3, which takes place in the irradiated remnants of Washington, DC, featured a robot in a house in Georgetown which, upon entering a command in a terminal in the house, would hover in the bedroom of the occupant's children and recite the poem for which this story is named.[17]
  • In 2015, shortly after Leonard Nimoy's death, the concept album Soft Rains was released featuring Nimoy's 1975 reading, set to music by producer Carwyn Ellis under the pseudonym Zarelli.

Reference[edit]

  1. ^ Bradbury, Ray (1980-11-25). "Ray Bradbury: The Science of Science Fiction". Christian Science Monitor (Interview). Interviewed by Arthur Unger. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  2. ^ Murphy, Sean. "Spotlight: Ray Bradbury". Pulitzer Prize Board. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  3. ^ Bradbury, Ray (1997). "Green Town, Somewhere on Mars; Mars, Somewhere in Egypt". The Martian Chronicles (Epub ed.). HarperCollins Publishers Inc. (published 2013). ISBN 9780062242266.
  4. ^ Bradbury, Ray (1950-05-06). "There Will Come Soft Rains". Collier's Weekly. Crowell-Collier Publishing Company. Retrieved 2020-09-12.
  5. ^ Bradbury, Ray (1980-11-25). "Ray Bradbury: The Science of Science Fiction". Christian Science Monitor (Interview). Interviewed by Arthur Unger. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  6. ^ Bradbury, Ray (1990). "The Romance of Places: An Interview with Ray Bradbury". Paris Voice (Interview). Interviewed by Rob Couteau. Florida State University Libraries. p. 90. Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  7. ^ Bradbury, Ray (May 1996). "Ray Bradbury". Playboy (Interview). Interviewed by Ken Kelly. Florida State University Libraries. p. 117. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  8. ^ Bradbury, Ray (1980-11-25). "Ray Bradbury: The Science of Science Fiction". Christian Science Monitor (Interview). Interviewed by Arthur Unger. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  9. ^ Bradbury, Ray. "The Intuitive Thing: Ray Bradbury and the Arts" (Interview). Interviewed by Sam Weller. Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2020-12-12.
  10. ^ Bradbury, Ray (April 1972). "Ray Bradbury: Space Age Moralist". Unity (Interview). Interviewed by William Nolan. Florida State University Libraries. p. 53. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
  11. ^ http://www.digitaldeliftp.com/DigitalDeliToo/dd2jb-Dimension-X.html
  12. ^ http://www.digitaldeliftp.com/DigitalDeliToo/dd2jb-X-Minus-One.html
  13. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007k2w1
  14. ^ "Ray Bradbury Read By Leonard Nimoy – The Martian Chronicles: There Will Come Soft Rains – Usher II at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  15. ^ "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains". Home.wlv.ac.uk. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  16. ^ Экранизации произведений Рэя Брэдбери (in Russian). Raybradbury.ru. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  17. ^ "McClellan family townhome — The Vault, the Fallout wiki — Fallout: New Vegas and more". Falloutwiki.com. Retrieved 2013-10-05.

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