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Danger in Complacency: “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains”

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When man’s reach exceeds his grasp, he will bring about his own destruction; this is an idea presented in many of Ray Bradbury’s works. Through irony and symbolism, the story indirectly details and warns us of the dangers of letting scientific progress run rampant. In Ray Bradbury’s “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains”, the author presents the idea that man’s complacency with technology will bring about the world’s destruction. Irony is one of the prevalent story elements that lends to the theme of the prose. The narrator states the house is “an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly” (Bradbury 118). There is a tinge of sadness in the tone when the house is performing its tasks. Nobody is listening when the house announces the date “three times for memory’s sake” (117). The house is made up of various mechanical servants all designed to aid their creators in life, but it can do nothing to help them from the other, more destructive advancement of technology: the atomic bomb.

As well, to support the feeling of remorse and regret over the complacency of humanity in regards to technology, the author adds a brief glimpse at life before the atomic war. On one ash-covered wall of the house, there are five silhouettes: a man mowing a lawn, a woman bending to pick flowers, and a boy and girl throwing a ball to each other (117). This image is a snapshot of the past; interspersed with calming imagery of sprinklers filling the “soft morning air” (117) with bright droplets of rain. The juxtaposition of the ruined, radioactively glowing city, and the silhouettes of a happy family in the yard symbolize the ignorant nature of the people who lived in the house. For the family, there is no warning, and no indication of danger that might have saved them from their demise.

The poem by Sara Teasdale, selected by the computer in the house, also lends to the ironic nature of the story. The poem describes life returning to the world after a war, untroubled by the extermination of mankind (119). The theme of the poem is in direct contrast with the reality presented in the story; the city lies in ruin, a radioactive wasteland mostly devoid of life. The dog, who has “gone to bone” (118) and is “covered with sores” (118) starves to death in the barren land left by the nuclear war that killed off humanity. The lack of life is also juxtaposed in the description of the house. During the children’s playtime, the nursery room simulates a jungle scene: yellow giraffes, blue lions, and other animals walk through a crisp meadow, to the sounds of iron crickets and buzzing bees (119). The fact that most references to animals in the story are in regards to the machines of the house, like the “tiny robot mice” (117) that clean the house only accentuates the lifeless state of the post-apocalyptic world; ironically, even the creatures in the story are manufactured to fake the semblance of life. Throughout the story, Bradbury makes a point of using human expressions and emotionally weighted words to describe the actions of the house. The story is littered with lines that describe automated recordings as “singing” (116), machinery letting out “hissing sighs” (117), and the protective nature that “[borderlines] on mechanical paranoia” (117).

This symbolization of the house serves to fill the void left by the lack of humanity in the story. By personifying the house, the narrator is presenting a character that we can empathize with in lieu of a living person. This is in order to draw a comparison to the sudden destruction of mankind at the climax of the story. The tree symbolizes the fiery explosion of an atomic bomb, and the house symbolizes man, crumbling to ruin without any hope of rescue. The various futuristic safety measures of the house do nothing to stop the fire from spreading. As the fire, started by a bottle of chemical cleaning solvent, moves through the house, “one, two, three… ten more voices die” (120), and the house falls apart, “like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under” (120).

The house screams out in panic, as the various robotic servants die out. In an instant, the last symbol of all of man’s technological progress in order to improve life follows its maker to ruin. Ultimately, “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” is a harrowing look into the results of man’s lack of respect for the dangers of technology. While the story occurs after the atrocities that destroyed the world, the depiction of the empty house creates a macabre feeling over the entire tale. Even so, while the story ends with the destruction of the house and the last vestiges of humanity, it could also be seen as the beginning of nature’s reclamation of Earth, which would show some truth in Sara Teasdale’s poem.


Bradbury, Ray. “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains.” The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Compact 8th ed. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, 116-21. Print.

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