Bradbury uses irony to great effect in the story. Irony in this case means presenting an outcome of a situation that is the opposite of what one would expect. Thus, it is ironic that the same technology which created a house that can cook and clean is also the technology which destroyed all the people on the planet. Furthermore, it is ironic that such a sophisticated example of technology, the computerized house, can be destroyed by nature, represented by the tree limb which crashes through the window and starts the fire.
Another irony involves the symbolism of the poem that the computer reads to the empty house. “There Will Come Soft Rains,” by Sara Teasdale, was written as a critical response to World War I. After all the wars are over, she says, the earth will continue despite all human efforts to prevent it. Though Teasdale could not have envisioned the devastation of nuclear war, her poem is still relevant. Even a world which has been poisoned for thousands of years with radiation and can support no human life will continue to exist. That the house reads this apocalyptic vision that has already come to pass is the irony of the situation. Humans have been able to foresee their annihilation, and now nothing but their prophecies of it remain. The inherent contradiction that forms the irony of the story can also be said to be paradox. A paradox is a situation which seems to contradict itself. Thus, technology that was designed to protect people— i.e. nuclear weapons—has actually killed them.
Bradbury uses similes, comparisons of unlike situations or things, to enhance the imagery of his prose. For instance, he states that the “nerves” of the house were “revealed as if a surgeon had torn the skin off to let the red veins and capillaries quiver in the scalded air.” Thus, by giving the house nerves, he compares it to a living organism, one that is badly damaged. Besides creating a vivid image, this simile also relates the idea that the house can feel. The ability to feel is a human characteristic. Ascribing human characteristics to inanimate objects is a literary device known as anthropomorphism. By describing the house in human terms, the author hopes the reader will identify with it, and thus feel empathy for the idea that it is the last working object on earth. It has lost its purpose—to serve others— because the others are no longer there. Though the house is an object with no emotions, the reader who identifies with it may feel loneliness and be able to imagine the pain of having one’s skin torn off. In this way, Bradbury is able to evoke emotion in the reader, the mark of a successful narrative. In another simile, the fire “[feeds] upon Picassos and Matisses in the upper halls, like delicacies.” The simile of priceless paintings being compared to food serves to anthropomorphize the fire. By eating the paintings, the fire is given a human characteristic. In a story with no human characters, the devices of similes and anthropomorphism give the reader something with which to identify.
Kathleen Wilson (Editor), Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 1, Ray Bradbury, Published by Gale, 1997.