[Reading Room] There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury

A house stands alone in a post-nuclear-strike landscape. It is one of those Tomorrowland kind of houses that people dreamed of in the 1950s: the stove is cooking eggs and bacon, the mice-robots are scurrying out to clean, the automatic systems are trying to entertain the absent occupants. Absent? Yes, and we find out what happened to those occupants in a shocking moment that is less shocking nowadays, because we’ve seen it before. But Bradbury was writing when these ideas and fears were new.

The story continues without a single human in it and yet it we come to know the former occupants of the house, their culture and also the character of the house.

Dig Deep And Find Your Unique Voice

Ray Bradbury’s writing is deeply poetic and thoroughly unique. It is a wonderful example of how you can find your voice only be being unapologetically yourself. Written by anyone else, this kind of lyrical writing would be overblown and possibly embarrassing. In Bradbury’s handling, it is just….well, Bradbury.

How To Write A Story Without A Human Protagonist

It’s also a wonderful example of how you can write a story without a traditional protagonist and yet still have a character.

In this story the house is definitely the protagonist, if a protagonist’s job is to guide us through a story and show us a new world in a new way. The house in this story is very much that protagonist. It tells us about the world that humanity has created for itself. It tells us what we have done to ourselves and points out the folly of the story’s human race: concentrating all its creative energies on making gadgets to make life comfortable instead of on solving the looming nuclear threat.

The story has secondary characters too: the family that lived in the house and the former household pet (who play the classic ‘secondary character role’ by being referenced in the story only when they contribute something to our understanding of the protagonist — in this case, the house).

Read the story online here.