August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” Ray Bradbury
In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o’clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o’clock! as if it were afraid that nobody would. The morning house lay empty. The clock ticked on, repeating and repeating its sounds into the emptiness. Seven-nine, breakfast time, seven-nine!
In the kitchen the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunnyside up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk.
“Today is August 4, 2026,” said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, “in the city of Allendale, California.” It repeated the date three times for memory’s sake. “Today is Mr.
Featherstone’s birthday. Today is the anniversary of Tilita’s marriage. Insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills.”
Somewhere in the walls, relays clicked, memory tapes glided under electric eyes.
Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o’clock, off to school, off to work, run, run, eight-one! But no doors slammed, no carpets took the soft tread of rubber heels. It was raining outside. The weather box on the front door sang quietly: “Rain, rain, go away; rubbers, raincoats for today…” And the rain tapped on the empty house, echoing.
Outside, the garage chimed and lifted its door to reveal the waiting car. After a long wait the door swung down again.
At eight-thirty the eggs were shriveled and the toast was like stone. An aluminum wedge scraped them into the sink, where hot water whirled them down a metal throat which digested and flushed them away to the distant sea. The dirty dishes were dropped into a hot washer and emerged twinkling dry.
Nine-fifteen, sang the clock, time to clean.
Out of warrens in the wall, tiny robot mice darted. The rooms were acrawl with the small cleaning animals, all rubber and metal. They thudded against chairs, whirling their mustached runners, kneading the rug nap, sucking gently at hidden dust. Then, like mysterious invaders, they popped into their burrows. Their pink electric eyes faded. The house was clean.
Ten o’clock. The sun came out from behind the rain. The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes. This was the one house left standing. At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles.
Ten-fifteen. The garden sprinklers whirled up in golden founts, filling the soft morning air with scatterings of brightness. The water pelted windowpanes, running down the charred west side where the house had been burned evenly free of its white paint. The entire west face of the house was black, save for five places. Here the silhouette in paint of a man mowing a lawn. Here, as in a photograph, a woman bent to pick flowers. Still farther over, their images burned on wood in one titanic instant, a small boy, hands flung into the air; higher up, the image of a thrown ball, and opposite him a girl, hands raised to catch a ball which never came down.
The five spots of paint—the man, the woman, the children, the ball—remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer.
The gentle sprinkler rain filled the garden with falling light.
My model response: 60 minutes, no conferring!
Introduction: Establish understanding of the passage and make some wider links to AO3.
This passage seems at first to conform to several tropes of Dystopian science fiction writing: The highly mechanised family home, the ‘improved future’ setting and the detailed description of elements of the infrastructure designed to assist humans in their lives which are reminiscent of much mid 20th century writing such as I, Robot or Do Androids dream of electric sheep (filmed as Blade Runner). As the passage comes to an end, the moments of uncertainty in the exposition are crystallised into a clear truth: this dystopia is one of destruction, possibly human-created destruction in the manner of texts such as Riddley Walker or The Road. In this case, however, the humans seem to have been completely removed from the planet – or. at least from Allendale, California, a location usually regarded as a ‘golden land’ drawing on the fertility and prosperity of that state. A pleasing irony, therefore.
Work through in a SCASI pattern, using each element to develop AO2. Some AO3 is needed, but the focus must be on AO2
The setting seems to be a normal domestic home as the passage begins. The rooms are listed: living room, kitchen, garage and the house is described as the ‘morning house’ suggesting a focus on time in the narrative. This is echoed by the regular reminders of time passing in the passage: ‘tick-tock seven o’clock, tick-tock’. The use of the onomatopoeic sound of the analogue clock is a clear statement that time is moving on throughout the passage regardless of the absence of human listeners. The reminder of ‘seven-nine, breakfast time…’ is a trite reminder that each facet of the human day is controlled by time, just as Winston Smith’s story begins with the clocks striking thirteen. Such control continues to be evident over the three and a quarter hours of the passage with specific commands being enacted at specific times, presumably each day. The human touches – ‘Mr Featherstone’s birthday’ or the requirement to pay the insurance bill can be seen as ironic in this new world – a world in which no birthdays will be celebrated and for which insurance seems utterly redundant. Such organisation of time is a key component of Zamyatin’s ‘We’, a novel in which the anonymous humans are tightly controlled by a repressive government. Here the organisation continues beyond life itself, as though the human race has been rendered redundant by the explosion note din the last paragraphs, when the setting has moved out of doors nito the suburban garden as the day moves on.
The writer has compensated for the lack of human characters by personification of the home and the automated robots which now have full ownership of it. From the outset of the passage, the ‘voice-clock sang…’ suggesting not only the creation of sound, but also an emotion -a pleasure in being able to give the information required. There is further depth to the emotion in the simile which follows- ‘as if afraid…’. As the kitchen equipment begins to perform the tasks thought in 1950s/60s America to be the female tasks the idea gains flesh -as though the clock and the appliances are the feminine heart of the home. The machines in the kitchen give a ‘hissing sigh’ as they eject the food suggesting that there is almost some resentment of the fact that the food will not be eaten. A sigh suggests sadness and the sibilance of ‘hissing’ possibly hints at verbalisation of frustration. As the morning continues we read of ‘electric eyes’ which control the home and the absence of humans is stressed by the negative form of the antithetical pairing: no doors slammed, no carpets took the soft tread of rubber heels’.
This prepares the reader for the next character to emerge: the ‘robot mice’. These cleaners, further personified by their ‘mustached runners’ dart around, briskly cleaning the house before returning to their ‘warrens’ in the walls and powering down – their’pink eyes faded’ suggests sleep or even death.
It is only once enough time has passed for the rain to stop and the sun to emerge, that the lack of tangible humans is explained. In a shift from the usual pathetic fallacy that sunshine suggests a positive mood, we now read of the tragedy: the family have been killed in some form of nuclear explosion – the city still ‘gave off a radio-active glow which could be seen for miles’. Who still exists to see the glow is never explained in the passage and this must be read as giving some hope for mankind in general, though not for the family, now memorialised as ‘spots of paint’. Their shadows stand out as white figures against a charred, ‘charcoaled layer’ – the black colour being a colour of death and ill-omen. They are immortalised in their actions – gardening and playing ball. Even the ball is caught in the description. All is now gone – the ball ‘never came down’ and the girl’s upraised arms might well suggest an attitude of surrender. The tone is reminiscent of the descriptions of destruction in Hoban’s Riddley Walker or McCarthy’s The Road, with their understated longing for a time-past.
The action of the passage is conveyed mainly in the choice of verbs – the clocks ‘sang’, the mice ‘darted’ for example, but there is also the repeated intervention of time which moves the writing on and reminds the reader of the inexorability of time regardless of the fact that the nuclear event seems to have brought all human action to a halt. Despite this, the house is full of action, from the breakfast ‘ejected’ by the stove to the refuse being ‘whirled’ down a humanoid ‘metal throat’ for digestion. Even garbage disposal has taken on human form. The toast, incidentally, now looking ‘like stone’ seems by this simile to represent small bread tombstones as we let the simile work on our senses. The robot mice are seen to work in harmony with the house – ‘kneading the rug nap and sucking gently at hidden dust’. The adverb seems to suggest care and respect for the home. The garage door ‘wait[s]’ for the family to leave and the washing-up ’emerged twinkling dry’ as though of its own accord.
The omniscient third person narrator presents this in a detached tone. The scant use of figurative language helps the reader to picture events and imbues some of the machines with a form of personality, but the writing is straightforward and informative, rather than descriptive, and is organised in a clear chronology to best present the new mechanised life of the home. Despite this there are hints of a human former life in the direct speech – sometimes in italics and sometimes not. Possibly the non-italicised voice represents the voice of a previous owner who has recorded the diary announcements for him or herself.
The Ideas section allows you to tie up the philosophy of the whole and make more clear references for AO3
Through all, the idea of a world from which humans have been removed, but which continues to operate on a mechanical level is clear. Time continues to pass and the robots continue to function despite the loss of their makers. A dystopian idea that humans are no longer needed and can be superceded by technology can be seen in much writing both science-fiction and not. The genetic birthing centres of Brave New World are replacing women and the robots of I Robot or Do androids dream of electric sheep are gradually replacing humans at all levels from servants to law enforcers. Even the giant robot dog which operates as the enforcer in Fahrenheit 451 can be seen in this light -indestructible and gradually replacing humanity. This passage seems to have carried things to their natural conclusion, not through the AI of the robots, but through human fallibility. As often in such a dystopia, the reason for the destruction is not clear. Nor is it clear why this should be the only house standing, but what is clear is the need for humans to control the world is long gone. The ‘soft rains’ of the title may represent the beautiful softness of the purifying and cleansing water of the sprinklers – ‘golden’ and ‘falling light’ or else the rains naturally occurring, and presumably highly toxic with radioactivity which must fall on the charrred and burnt Earth.