This is the first story in this collection that can really be considered science fiction. I guess you could consider “The Coffin” science fiction in a way, but the invention wasn’t really the focus there, the primal fear of death way. Here, Bradbury gives us a vision of a possible future, with a fully automated house that cooks, cleans itself, provides entertainment, and all sorts of other wonders.
The year is 2026. A scant 11 years from now. I don’t know whether AI and robotics will develop enough by then to make this a reality.
There are a few things I noticed. First off, I would be surprised if the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II hadn’t had a hand in inspiring this story. I won’t detail why I think so, but it’s pretty obvious when you get about halfway through the story. Another thing I noticed was how perfectly the Sara Teasdale poem, of the same title as the story and inserted into the story itself, parallels the events of the tale. It’s a subtle enough mirroring that it doesn’t feel like Bradbury is beating readers over the head, but it’s obvious enough that it will be noticed easily.
I think what’s most interesting, though, is how Bradbury manages to give this automated, robotic house a sense of personality. Not in the way we normally think of personalities, mind you. But the house and the robotic components of it feel almost like characters — which is important in a story that focuses on an automated house. The premise sounds like one that wouldn’t work because there’s no way to relate to a machine… and yet here we are. It’s a very interestingly crafted tale, and one that feels quite plausible, though again, maybe not by 2026, which would have been far off for Bradbury, a future he’d never see, but for us? It’s pretty close.
But hey, I’ve heard that Nike is working on the self-lacing shoes from Back to the Future II, so maybe Bradbury’s technology of 2026 is a possibility after all.