A voice chants, “Eight-one, tick-tock, eight-one o’clock, off to school, off o work, run, run, eight-one,” and “Nine-fifteen, time to clean! ” (Bradbury 399). Working in the same way that many horror movies do today, the structure makes the reader uncomfortable by combining a child-like mentality with something much darker. Later on, a dog, “once huge and fleshy, but now gone to bone and covered with sores,” (Bradbury 400) enters the house searching for the family. The dog is unable to locate them and begins frothing at the mouth once it smells food and eventually dying. Mechanical mice quickly relocate the dog to the incinerator.
The scene is intensely tragic. This SE of tragedy to put a story in perspective is another tactic put to use by both horror movie directors and Bradbury himself. Sara Teasel’s poem plays an important role in a theme for the short story; life will go on even after man is gone. Bradbury uses it as a form of foreshadowing and to illustrate a detachment from nature within the family that resided in the home at one point. Chosen at random in the absence of Mrs.. McClellan, the poem includes lines such as “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” (Bradbury 401). The story parallels with this poem perfectly as man has been wiped out, but the world still carries on, and it perhaps has even a bit of an environmentalist tone. Some naturalistic descriptions are used throughout the story in an interesting way: “Bridge tables sprouted from patio walls. Playing cards fluttered onto pads in a shower of pips” (Bradbury 400). These descriptions seem to suggest that though the house wants to shut out nature, its machinery imitates it.
Bradbury might also be using more scare tactics by using the poem to paint the idea that man’s existence is small and unimportant, a thought that renders many people terrified. The house continues on with its daily tasks even though all human life is gone. Despite being such a fantastical situation, the house is doing very mundane, ordinary jobs-?making eggs, setting out cards, cleaning. This is an interesting contrast against the emptiness of the house. There is also a contrast between the interior of the house and the rubble left of the city that surrounded it.
The cleaning within the house is order-line obsessive with the mice constantly wheeling in and cleaning. The house is very orderly and sticks to a routine, contrasting with the cold, desolate and demolished city outside. We are never directly told what happened to the family that resided within the house, but the inference is very easy to make. Bradbury offers the information that the city “gave off a radioactive glow which could be seen for miles,” (Bradbury 399) and it can be assumed that the city was destroyed by a nuclear explosion.
The McClellan family is captured in a happy moment against the side of the house, the hillier playing ball and the husband and wife caring for the lawn. Because of the happy stance they are caught in, we know that they had no idea of the disaster that was to strike and It must have happened in no more than a second. The thought that disaster could strike so suddenly and destroy life in a flash Of light shakes the reader and piles more eerie feelings on an already eerie story. The house seemed to be at ease and in control but we begin to realize that it is afraid and paranoid. In the living room, the voice clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o’clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o’clock! S if it were afraid that nobody would” (Bradbury 399). The house asks ‘ ‘Who goes there? What’s the password? ‘ and it had “shut up its windows and drawn shades in an old-maidenly preoccupation with self-protection which bordered on mechanical paranoia,” (Bradbury 399) yet it continues to do what it normally does, even getting angry: “Behind it whirled angry mice, angry at having to pick up mud, angry at inconvenience” (Bradbury 400).
Bradbury inserts irony here by describing the house as angry about the disturbances even though it cares for a now non-existent family. When the house begins to die, there are several interesting things going on. The houses destruction is caused by one of the most primitive forces of nature-?fire. Both the fire and the house are personified in the tail section of the story; “But the fire was clever,” and “The fire rushed into every closet and felt of clothes hung there” (Bradbury 402).
As hinted at in Teasel?s poem, nature not only seems indifferent to the loss of man, but even aids in the destroying of man’s creations. More interesting, however, is that the house is directly personified as man. Bradbury uses very vivid body-like imagery such as “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. (Bradbury 402) The reader is then bombarded with voices and images that mirror the effect of the child- like nursery rhymes from the beginning of the Story. The wonderful animals described before are now burning, enhancing the sense of destruction as the house begins to collapse. The syntax of the scene creates hysteria, phrase after phrase strung together to signify “a thousand things happening at once” (Bradbury 402).