Ray Bradbury’s “The Long Rain” follows a group of American military men as they fight to survive after their rocket crashes unexpectedly in the Venusian jungle, which is soaked with the endless rain. As they trample through this pale, soggy world in search of an American-made shelter called a Sun Dome, the men repeatedly grumble about their government back on Earth. Through these complaints, Bradbury criticizes the government for being both misguided and slow to act, which can have catastrophic consequences for its citizens. The story’s political undertones ultimately suggest that part of this lag stems from how the government has lost sight of helping its individual citizens. Instead, the government is preoccupied with sticking its nose in other territories—like Venus—even when doing so makes little sense.
Bradbury clearly illustrates the danger of the government’s failure—or refusal—to understand the urgency of the situation it has left its Venus-bound citizens in. When the lieutenant, Simmons, and Pickard are faced with the devastating discovery that the first Sun Dome they’ve come across in a month is in ruins, the lieutenant suggests that they stay put and wait for a rescue mission. Always the realist, Simmons replies, “They’ll send a crew to repair this place in about six months, when they get the money from Congress. I don’t think we’d better wait.” Simmons’ comments suggest a certain inhumanity within the government’s priorities; even though swiftly repairing the Sun Dome could save several lives, Congress will fail to release the funds promptly. Such sluggish bureaucracy has devastating effects even millions of miles away, as both Pickard and Simmons go insane mere hours after encountering the destroyed Sun Dome. Given that Bradbury wrote this story shortly after World War II, this could thus be read as a broader condemnation of high-level, detached policy decisions that fail to adequately consider the immediate consequences for individuals representing the country abroad.
Bradbury in fact directly suggests that the government is slow to act because it’s lost sight of the importance of helping individual citizens. One of the men, probably Simmons due to his other politically charged comments, explains that there are “one hundred and twenty-six [Sun Domes], as of last month. They tried to push a bill through Congress back on Earth a year ago to provide for a couple dozen more, but oh no, you know how that is. They’d rather a few men went crazy with the rain.” Simmons gestures to the way that the American government is particularly slow—or entirely ineffectual—about things that would only help a relatively small number of people.
Through the men’s complaints, Bradbury implies that the government is too caught up with inserting itself in foreign territories, even when doing so makes little sense and comes at the cost of human life. Simmons explains the hostile dynamic between the Venusians and the Earth people (specifically Americans, whose government funds and maintains the Domes), stating, “Every once in a while the Venusians come up out of the sea and attack a Sun Dome. They know if they ruin the Sun Domes they can ruin us. […] But it’s been five years since the Venusians tried anything. Defense relaxes. They caught this Dome unaware.” The Venusians make their discontent with America’s presence even clearer by also capturing (and presumably killing) those who were in the Sun Dome in question. Simmons muses, “The Venusians took them all down into the sea. I hear they have a delightful way of drowning you. It takes about eight hours to drown the way they work it. Really delightful.”
Bradbury points out that America’s decision to colonize Venus (or at least set roots down in some capacity) also makes little sense in the first place due to the planet’s environment. In the story, the humans repeatedly voice that they are out of their element on Venus. One of the men even likens enduring the foreign climate to enduring foreign torture tactics (further positioning the story as a commentary on the experience of soldiers in wartime). After comparing the rain to Chinese water torture, the man affirms, “We’re not made for water. You can’t sleep, you can’t breathe right, and you’re crazy from just being soggy.” The man highlights how the perpetual downpour keeps humans from ensuring their basic needs are met. Similarly, moments away from going insane, the lieutenant tells himself, “We weren’t made for this; no Earthman was or ever will be able to take it.” Bradbury clearly shows how the Venusians don’t want humans there, and the humans themselves don’t want to be there, consequently casting the American government’s preoccupation with Venus as absurd and even fatal.
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Government, Politics, and Foreign Affairs Quotes in The Long Rain
“Chinese water cure. Remember the old torture? Rope you against a wall. Drop one drop of water on your head every half hour. You go crazy waiting for the next one. Well, that’s Venus, but on a big scale. We’re not made for water. You can’t sleep, you can’t breathe right, and you’re crazy from just being soggy.”
A yellow house, round and bright as the sun. A house fifteen feet high by one hundred feet in diameter, in which was warmth and quiet and hot food and freedom from rain. And in the center of the Sun Dome, of course, was a sun. A small floating free globe of yellow fire, drifting in a space at the top of the building where you could look at it from where you sat, smoking or reading a book or drinking your hot chocolate crowned with marshmallow dollops. There it would be, the yellow sun, just the size of the Earth sun, and it was warm and continuous, and the rain world of Venus would be forgotten as long as they stayed in that house and idled their time.
The Sun Dome was empty and dark. There was no synthetic yellow sun floating in a high gaseous whisper at the center of the blue ceiling. There was no food waiting. It was cold as a vault. And through a thousand holes which had been newly punctured in the ceiling water streamed, the rain fell down, soaking into the thick rugs and the heavy modern furniture and splashing on the glass tables. The jungle was growing up like a moss in the room, on top of the bookcases and the divans. The rain slashed through the holes and fell upon the three men’s faces.
Behind him the rain whirled at the door. Ahead of him, upon a low table, stood a silver pot of hot chocolate, steaming, and a cup, full, with a marshmallow in it. And beside that, on another tray, stood thick sandwiches of rich chicken meat and fresh-cut tomatoes and green onions. And on a rod just before his eyes was a thick green Turkish towel, and a bin in which to throw wet clothes […] And upon a chair, a fresh change of uniform, waiting for anyone—himself, or any lost one—to make use of it. And farther over, coffee in steaming copper urns, and a phonograph from which music was playing quietly, and books bound in red and brown leather. And near the books a cot, a soft deep cot upon which one might lie, exposed and bare, to drink in the rays of the one great bright thing which dominated the long room.