In his short story “There Will Come Soft Rains,” Ray Bradbury is able to create a believable story without the use of human characters through creating a character in the house itself. It would seem at first glance that the house is the setting of the story; however, as it goes about its daily routine for the people who no longer exist, except as silhouettes of ash on the west side of the exterior, it begins to emerge as the main character and the setting. The larger setting is, of course, the obliterated wasteland that lay in rubble outside the house. From the setting and the image of the phantom family that the house is programmed to service, the context of the story emerges. This home, the epitome of the modernization and mechanization of society had been built to replace the necessity for human labor in keeping a home. It prepares meals, runs baths, cleans, even reads poetry to the lady of the house in the evening. It had become, before the end, a replacement for human life. When the rest of the world was destroyed, the family vaporized as the worked in their yard one day, the house remains. Without a master it becomes more and more human.
As its day begins, the routines of its former existence are played out in a calculated fashion but this facade falls away as the day goes on and the usefulness of its many gadgets lose their purpose. I don’t think that the house becomes more human but instead, to illustrate its place as a crumbling remnant of human civilization Bradbury has it become more human as its own doom approaches. The windows snapping open at the approach of birds, implying the house is waiting and missing its own purpose. Like human civilization, as implied in the nuclear doomsday imagery, the house ultimately is destroyed by its own carelessness. A bottle of cleaning solvent left on a stove ignites and destroys the house even as it attempts to save itself. At its last moments, Bradbury makes the house its most human with it screaming in the night as it slowly is falls to the ground. In the inanimate but animated character of the house, Bradbury is able to tell the tale of humanity. It becomes its own tragedy and mankind’s own both in its existence and its death.