The Veldt & There Will Come Soft Rains: Analysis

Analysis, DH306

20130108-072325Bradbury’s stories “The Veldt” and “There Will Come Soft Rains” illustrate a fundamental truth about technology—that alone it is inert, purposeless, and harmless. Only when coupled with the focus of human intention can we ascribe any kind of goodness or badness to it, and even then it is merely a reflection of the human counterpart in the mirrored walls of the machine.

In “The Veldt”, the name of the children’s room is important to note. It is not called the “playroom” but instead—and perhaps more symbolically—the “Nursery”. This is where the children are nurtured. Their parents have bought the house to free themselves of the repetitive and monotonous tasks that we all must endure daily, yet for this family that shift of responsibilities also extends to nurturing their children. Without the guidance of their parents, the children are left to their own devices, and are guided by an indulgent technology that the parents could never hope to retrieve them from. It’s the children’s favorite “toy”, one with more richness and reliability than their parents exude, and so they become aligned with the Nursery and against their parents.

Bradbury isn’t warning so much against technology itself, since technology without the human counterpart is inert and purposeless. Rather, it’s the idea that without being mindful the user can become the use-e, following along the same cold amoral programming of the technology itself.

In “Soft Rains”, we see a different facet of the same idea. Here the house’s occupants have long since disappeared, and we watch the almost comical play of a servant with no one to serve. Even with all the most modern amenities and highest calibrations, however, the house is no more a protector against destruction than anything else. Interestingly, since the house is a product of human technology, and was created explicitly to serve the needs of humans (as most technology does), it dies along with the rest of the population. We think often about our dependency on technology, of the taut leash that seems to hold us to it at all times in a modern world. Yet Bradbury illustrates that the opposite is also true—without us, technology becomes obsolete.

While mostly meditative, there is something inherently unsettling about these stories. The sinister sheen that seems to so often be applied to cold metal and tiny chips of silicon is the personification of our own intentions. They are tools, and tools can be used in any number of ways depending on the aims of the one who holds them. In the “Veldt” we see what can happen when the tools fall into undeveloped hands, where rash emotions turn them into weapons. “Soft Rains” show the tools as helpful, eager to please, yet the one amenity that is needed seems to be sold separately.

 

3 thoughts on “The Veldt & There Will Come Soft Rains: Analysis

  1. Tim, I love your statement, “technology… coupled with the focus of human intention… is merely a reflection of the human counterpart”. I think it is necessary to remember “human intention” as we continue to advance with our technology. Curious: who is the couple in your pic?

  2. “Soft Rains” show the tools as helpful, eager to please, yet the one amenity that is needed seems to be sold separately.”

    This story haunted me almost more than “The Veldt” because the house seemed so human. Everything the house did was to comfort and take care of it’s humans, including the poem read because it was Mrs. McClellan’s favorite. At the end of the story when the fire envelops the house, I actually felt sorry for it. It died because it no longer had a purpose or caretaker. As I said in my post, humanity is the cause of and reason for technology.

  3. “Rather, it’s the idea that without being mindful the user can become the use-e, following along the same cold amoral programming of the technology itself.”

    Sometimes I am on my phone and think “do I want to be on my phone, or does my phone want me to be on it?” With all the pings, rings, and lights, it feels like I am constantly being beckoned and I have to remind myself that I can just let it blink.

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