Essay on the setting of “there will come soft rains”
Essay on the setting of “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury
In “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains”, a short story by world renown author Ray Bradbury, the narrator tells the story of a house in Allendale California, in the year 2026. The setting in this short story is very particular; it is set in a post-apocalyptic world that most likely illustrates the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war. The story takes place over the course of one day: “August 4, 2026”. The house that is described to the reader is the last house left standing, it’s deserted and surrounded by rubbles but it’s still technologically intact. The setting in this story takes a major role, it provides insight into the story, it facilitates the readers understanding of the story and in this case it is the center of the story, the “main character”.
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Bradbury mainly describes three elements of the setting, a post-apocalyptic world, a city of ashes and rubble and a house that is personified but yet inhuman. Ray Bradbury has always been a polemic writer who has brought to his readers an interesting perspective on very important subjects that affected the society in which he lived in. In this particular short story, the reader is presented with a post-apocalyptic world, more precisely the post-apocalyptic city of Allendale, California. It is highly possible to assume that the city was destroyed by an atomic blast. The story was written in 1950, during the years of the atomic bomb, Bradbury was contemporary with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and therefore he lived in an era that was dominated by the everlasting fear of an imminent nuclear war, which clearly had an effect in his writing.
The poem by Sara Teasdale, just like Bradbury’s short story, seems to illustrated a world where “not one will know of the war […] [where] mankind perished utterly”, a world depicting the aftermath of a nuclear war. The short description of the remains of the city that surround the house is very important in the readers understanding of the story. The “radioactive glow which could be seen for miles” mixed with the “city of rubble and ashes” are clear indicators that prove that Allendale and maybe even the world was wiped out by an atomic blast. This eerie portrayal of the remains of the city emphasizes the loneliness of the house, ‘‘the house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes. This was the one house left standing”. In this scene of obliteration, there is only “one house left standing”, the house of the McClellans, who died from the impact of the atomic bomb and all that is left of the family of the family of four are the silhouettes ,‘burned on wood”, “of a man mowing a lawn […] a woman bent to pick flowers[…] a small boy, hands flung in the air […] and opposite him a girl hands raised to catch a ball which never came down”.
The house was alone, “the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly” the family that lived in the house were the gods, the creators of the artificial life that surrounded them. The house in this story is personified; the house is “alive”. The house had a “metal throat”, “electric eyes”, ”it quivered at each sound”, it “screamed” and most importantly “the house [begins] to die”. The personification of the house that Bradbury displays, brings the house to life, it is there that the irony lies. After an atomic bomb has destroyed humanity, the technology that men left behind is the only thing “alive” left. Although the house is personified, the house is still not human. The house lacks human emotions, this is clearly seen when the dog comes into the house and dies, the mice are “angry at having to pick up [its] mud, angry at inconvenience”.
The house’s efficiency and helpfulness seem to make it cold and emotionless and the fact that it lives on after its inhabitants have passed just proves how the house is only a machine that is unable to love, this house will always be a house but it will never be a home. While the plot and the theme are always very significant, a reader should never forget the importance of the setting in a story. This short story is a perfect example of the importance of the setting, since it is through it that the reader is able to truly understand the author’s message and intensions. It is through the description of a post-apocalyptic world, a city in ruins and the last house standing, that the reader is able to truly understand the story.