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The Long Rain

The Long Rain Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ray Bradbury's The Long Rain. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ray Bradbury

As a child, Ray Bradbury was a voracious reader. When his family moved to Los Angeles in 1934, the teenaged Bradbury began writing short stories—a hobby that soon turned into a life passion. Unable to afford to college, he went to the library instead—visiting three days a week for ten years straight. At the beginning of his literary career, Bradbury’s work appeared only in niche magazines centered on fantasy and the supernatural. However, after one of his stories was included in The Best American Short Stories in 1946, Bradbury began to garner public attention. He’s best known for his 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451. All eleven of Bradbury’s novels grew out of existing short stories—a genre he loved dearly. By the time of his death, at age 91, Bradbury had penned hundreds of short stories, many of which are beloved literary classics. He received many honors during his lifetime, including a National Medal of the Arts, a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, an Oscar nomination, and an Emmy Award. Bradbury married his first love, Marguerite McClure, in 1947, and the pair had four daughters together, Susan, Ramona, Bettina, and Alexandra.
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Historical Context of The Long Rain

World War II ended in 1945, just five years prior to the original publication of Bradbury’s “The Long Rain.” After the bloodiest war in history, peace was a welcome change, but widespread tension remained. In 1947, the Cold War began, and the Korean War began in 1950. This atmosphere of animosity and political strife is reflected in “The Long Rain,” as it’s clear that the Venusians do not want the Earth people on their territory and are willing to use violence to make this known. The protagonists of the story, all American military men, struggle to navigate and survive in an unfamiliar territory—an experience that echoes wartime difficulties. The late 1940s also brought extraordinary technological advances, including GPS tracking, helicopters, computers, and of course, nuclear weapons. This feeling of boundless innovation appears throughout the pages of “The Long Rain.” The men travel to Venus in a rocket ship, their lifeboat automatically folds up into the size of a cigarette box, and in the center of each Sun Dome (luxurious American-made shelters scattered all around Venus) hovers a massive mechanical sun as a heater. The Space Age was also about to begin, and for the first time in human history, travel beyond Earth seemed possible. Although no human had yet left Earth’s atmosphere when “The Long Rain” was originally published in 1950, Sputnik, the first manmade satellite, launched less than ten years later. NASA was founded in 1958, and in 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped out of a rocket and onto the moon—an event that Bradbury would later deem the most important moment of his life.

Other Books Related to The Long Rain

Bradbury’s “The Long Rain” thematically resembles several of his short stories, including “Zero Hour,” which is also featured in The Illustrated Man. In “Zero Hour,” aliens invade Earth, while in “The Long Rain,” the Earth people are the ones infringing on the Venusians’ territory. Both stories also have undertones of political criticism: “Zero Hour” depicts the dangers of getting too comfortable and complacent in times of political peace, while “The Long Rain” contains overt criticisms of Congress’ sluggishness, American imperialism, and the government’s interventionist foreign policy. Bradbury’s “The Other Foot” also depicts Earth people trying to settle on another planet—in this case, Mars—though the so-called Martians are actually Earth people who left the planet decades ago due to racism. Like “The Long Rain,” C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra (also titled Voyage to Venus) takes place on the planet Venus. Instead of the foreboding, dangerous jungle that appears in “The Long Rain,” C.S. Lewis’s version of Venus is paradisal. However, both versions of Venus depict it as a watery planet—in Perelandra, Venus is completely made up of ocean (with floating clumps of vegetation), while in “The Long Rain,” the planet has a large Single Ocean and is constantly drenched in torrential downpour.
Key Facts about The Long Rain
  • Full Title: “The Long Rain”
  • When Written: 1950
  • Where Written: Los Angeles
  • When Published: “The Long Rain” was originally published in 1950 (with the title “Death-by-Rain”). It was republished in 1951 in Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, which consists of eighteen loosely-strung-together short stories.
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Science fiction short story
  • Setting: Venus
  • Climax: The lieutenant, Simmons, and Pickard finally reach the Sun Dome (an American-made shelter), only to discover that it’s in shambles and does not have any edible food.
  • Antagonist: The constant Venusian rain, which drives the men insane.
  • Point of View: Third person

Extra Credit for The Long Rain

Failed Film. The 1989 film adaptation of The Illustrated Man includes the plots from three of Bradbury’s short stories, including “The Long Rain.” Critics considered the film “both a critical and financial failure.”