Aftermath of World War II
Bradbury wrote “There Will Come Soft Rains” in the early 1950s. The memory of World War II was fresh in peoples’ minds, particularly the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August, 1945, which brought the war to an end. Though the Allies had won, an increasing tension arose between the United States and the U.S.S.R., and soon a nuclear buildup known as the Cold War began. President Dwight Eisenhower, a war hero, warned of the rising military-industrial complex it took to support the Cold War. In the United States’ quest to eradicate communism from the globe, beginning with the Soviet Union, a disproportionate part of the country’s resources and economic power needed to be focused on the weapons stockpile. The focus on preparedness for war, critics said, would result in governmental neglect of other important issues, like education, welfare, and economic growth. Nevertheless, few citizens were concerned about these issues as the 1950s dawned; jobs were plentiful and people were now able to afford goods that had been cost-prohibitive before the war, such as automobiles and televisions. But the threat of nuclear war filtered into everyday life. People built bomb shelters in their basements, and children participated in bomb drills at school in which they learned to protect themselves from a nuclear blast by crawling under their desks and placing their hands on their heads.
This fear of communism raged out of control during the 1950s, and it was represented most graphically by the Senate Committee on Unamerican Activities, which was organized and spearheaded by Senator Joseph McCarthy. This committee investigated and persecuted many prominent Americans who were suspected of believing in communism. This paranoia, followed by a fanatical attempt to flush out democracy’s traitors and eradicate them, became known as McCarthyism. Many writers and artists were taken to court, accused of being communists, and were “blacklisted,” meaning they were not able to gain work. Thus, many lives and careers were ruined.
When not focused on the “red menace” of communism, the country turned its attention toward the future. Spawned by the pre-war interest in futurism and modernism as displayed by corporate America at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, people’s imaginations were sparked by the thought of transcontinental highways, labor-saving devices like washing machines and robots, and the possibility of space travel. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed to make space travel a reality. But the U.S.S.R. beat the Americans into space with the launching of Sputnik in 1956, further promoting anti-Soviet feeling in the United States. Government leaders sought to intensify the race by stating that they intended to land a man on the moon before the century was over. The nation’s interest in science fiction movies and comic books reflected this fascination with the future.
Kathleen Wilson (Editor), Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 1, Ray Bradbury, Published by Gale, 1997.