Edgar Allen Poe is one of Bradbury’s favorite writers, and “The Cistern” uses an idea that often appears in Poe’s works — the death of a beautiful woman. In this story, Anna is that beautiful woman and is another of Bradbury’s lonely people. She is unfulfilled in love because she failed to fight to win her lover Frank away from his mother’s protective grasp.
Water imagery is dominant in this story and, here, functions as a symbol of rebirth and regeneration for Anna and Frank. First, the rain that falls upon Anna and, later, the cistern water into which she and Frank submerge themselves serve as baptismal waters for them both. Frank has left his lonely death-in-life situation in the world, seeking something more from the water into which he steps. Likewise, Anna, too, leaves her lonely, deathlike existence. She immerses herself into a watery death which will finally mean life to her. Paradoxically, then, only in the baptismal waters that bring about death by drowning do they find a meaningful life together. Here in this cistern city, the tide causes them to touch and washes them together. “The Cistern” deals with loneliness, love, and love’s fulfillment. Using such universal themes, Bradbury urges each of us to see something, if only a little, of ourselves. Also, “The Cistern” makes another comment on the power of love, which can transcend even the bounds of death.