The automated house of Bradbury’s story presents itself as the perfect environment for human beings—a space that readily caters to nearly every imaginable need. To do so, however, it relies a great deal on the natural world, both for inspiration (many of its automated functions, such as the robot mice, are based on animals) and for the raw materials to keep running. By having the house ultimately succumb to a fire and be destroyed by the natural world, Bradbury suggests that nature is more powerful than whatever man can create.
Bradbury physically establishes the animosity between the house—a symbol of technology—and the natural world. The house protects its residents from the forces of nature: its walls close out harsh weather, its kitchen machines spare humans from hunting and foraging in the wilderness, and the cleaning mice ward off the chaos of the outdoors, cleaning up the mud, dust, and hair that accumulate in a natural environment. This house even seems to take its responsibility to battle nature a bit too far. It shuts itself whenever “lonely foxes and whining cats” get too close. Comically, the narrator describes the stern response of the house to a sparrow brushing up against the window: “No, not even a bird must touch the house!” This protective impulse turns sinister when the house dispassionately disposes of the family dog’s carcass, treating the pet as nothing more than some smelly bio-matter.
When nature threatens to destroy it, technology is able to put up a comprehensive defense. For instance, when a fallen tree causes a house fire, machines come out in full force to battle the hostile foe. Mechanical doors shut against fire in an act of self-defense. “Blind robot faces” spray green fire repellent. And when fire-fighting fails, voices cry out in warning, as a lookout might upon spotting enemy troops. Yet even as technology tries to subdue nature, it can’t help but rely on it. This technology is created in nature’s image and fueled by natural resources. Machines in the house are often likened to animals, suggesting that nature has already created perfect “machines” that humanity simply is attempting to copy for its own ends. Furthermore, technology cannot exist without the raw materials that nature provides: the house has been built out of oak, wired with metal tubes, and it’s powered by the natural force of electricity. The house ultimately fails because its water reserves are depleted, meaning that it can’t put out the fire that consumes it.
Despite presenting an alternative to the natural order, technology ultimately looks weak compared with nature. After a day of fussing over the artificial environment that the house has created, the home settles in for the night. While the house is sleeping, nature launches its attack by letting a tree fall on the home, causing the fire. Though the house attempts to defend itself, the fire is described as “clever” and ultimately overpowers the upstart domicile. Bradbury seems to suggest that the victory is justified—that the arrogance of technology is finally being subdued. The eventual ease with which technology is outdone by nature suggests that it was arrogant and foolish to attempt to challenge the natural order in the first place.
In the end, nature can persist without technology, but the reverse is not true. The poem by Sara Teasdale paints a picture of nature persisting even when everything men ever created has died away. Since nature is vast and self-sustaining, it cannot brake or run out of fuel the way machines do. And even in the face of the overwhelming and devastating effects of technology—the atom bomb, which has reduced the natural world to a radioactive wasteland of “rubble” and “ashes”—Bradbury suggests that nature will prevail. There are still trees, birds, foxes, cats, and dogs at the end of the story, implying that nature may, in time, thrive once again. Meanwhile, people and their technology have been wiped from the face of the Earth, showing that nature is the ultimate winner of this struggle.
Nature vs. Technology ThemeTracker
Nature vs. Technology Quotes in There Will Come Soft Rains
The front door recognized the dog voice and opened. The dog, once huge and fleshy, but now gone to bone and covered with sores, moved in and through the house, tracking mud. Behind it whirred angry mice, angry at having to pick up mud, angry at inconvenience.
There was the sound like a great matted yellow hive of bees within a dark bellows, the lazy bumble of a purring lion. And there was the patter of okapi feet and the murmur of a fresh jungle rain, like other hoofs, falling upon the summer-starched grass.
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
At ten o’clock the house began to die. The wind blew. A falling tree bough crashed through the kitchen window. Cleaning solvent, bottled, shattered over the stove. The room was ablaze in an instant!
The fire crackled up the stairs. It fed upon Picassos and Matisses in the upper halls, like delicacies, baking off the oily flesh, tenderly crisping the canvases into black shavings.
But the fire was clever. It had sent flames outside the house, up through the attic to the pumps there. An explosion! The attic brain which directed the pumps was shattered into bronze shrapnel on the beams.
The house shuddered, oak bone on bone, its bared skeleton cringing from the heat, its wire, its nerves revealed as if a surgeon had torn the skin off to let the red veins and capillaries quiver in the scalded air.
In the last instant under the fire avalanche, other choruses, oblivious, could be heard announcing the time, playing music, cutting the lawn by remote-control mower, or setting an umbrella frantically out and in the slamming and opening front door, a thousand things happening, like a clock shop when each clock strikes the hour insanely before or after the other, a scene of maniac confusion, yet unity; singing, screaming, a few last cleaning mice darting bravely out to carry the horrid ashes away! And one voice, with sublime disregard for the situation, read poetry aloud in the fiery study, until all the film spools burned, until all the wires withered and the circuits cracked.
Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam: “Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is…”