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John Wyndham And George Orwell: Two Peas In A Pod!

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John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids was his most successful novel sprouting many film adaptations and a much anticipated sequel after his death. Despite all of its popularity, it has not been Wyndham’s most well received work by the critics (Reading Group web). It has frequently been treated as a horror story lacking in thoughts as a pose to a brilliant novel that warns people as to what technology could lead to. This means that some major themes in it have been overlooked. This is interesting because these same themes are present in the popular novel Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell. The most important theme that is never talked about by scholars of either book is everlasting horror. Both Day of the Triffids and Nineteen Eight Four are about pain and suffering that never end (Delson web). The pain being referred to is of physical pain because neither Orwell nor Wyndham were of any spiritual nature. Nineteen Eighty Four and The Day of the Triffids share many common themes concerning pain and death.

Ideas have a strong presence in Triffids. At one point in the novel a Professor of Sociology lectures the survivors on the practical morality needed for the new, wrecked world. He gives his speech in the middle of chapter seven (Wyndham 97). The heroine and hero, Playton and Masen, talk about their changing principles and offer political analyses of events, repeatedly starting from the first chapter (Wyndham 56). It seems that three social theories are behind the founding of the different groups of people; the Christians who are destroyed out by the plague, the troubled regime established by the dictator Torrence, and the final Isle of Wight colony where Masen and Platon live out the rest of their lives and write their versions of what happened (Wyndham 211). Many different ideas are discussed and their penalties are worked out in the separate colonies (Wyndham 109). Wyndham also explicitly goes into an analysis of the triffid economy, and he does this on implicit levels.

The common idea of law and order and its call for regulation does not happen in Triffids. The protagonist actually goes around euthanatizing people out of the good will of his heart (Wyndham 85). When Triffids was written, suicide and helping in suicide were illegal in Britain but in the novel Masen seems to have no trouble at all ethically with this (Wyndham 85). This shows how people can do compromising things because of huge disasters.

The Day of the Triffids seems to take death and euthanasia lightly as if they are everyday issues and occurrences. Of all the fatalities seen by Masen, he helps three people kill themselves: Doctor Soames, the landlord of the Alamein Arms, and the blind girl from his London party (Wyndham 98). He does not prevent a man and the man's spouse from their house, and he is also there for a mercy killing in the road (Wyndham 68). Although he sees the bodies of others seemingly slaughtered by triffids, he sees only three people killed by them (Wyndham 59). So counting the deaths viewed by Masen there are six deaths by humans and three deaths by triffids. This is interesting as one would think that the majority of the deaths would be from the killer plants but instead they are from the humans. The destruction brought on by the triffids is not as abrupt as the protagonist’s failure to show what is usually thought of as conventional consideration for the law. A new law is brought about by the new conditions, and Day of the Triffids provides a good, clear discussion of pragmatic ethics.

The failure of an opponent to fight the evil is a feature of both novels. Bill Masen is fighting against the triffids for survival but he was actually employed as a triffid botanist before the big tragedy, while Coker, the previous deep-seated activist, has failed in all his agitation (Wyndham 214). Masen is actually part of the reason the world is in such turmoil. Orwell considered calling his novel “The Last Man in Europe,” but Winston Smith is not even close to being the last man. He is actually weak minded and not a very motivated part of society. He seems to enjoy working in the Ministry of Truth on the re-working of historical facts. Wyndham's original title in the United States, “Revolt of the Triffids” has been justifiably renamed (Clarke web). The monsters do not revolt; they simply follow their instincts as any normal animal would do

The intention of these novels is to account for pain that lasts permanently, and both titles are ironic allusions to how they view time. 1984 is a year and The Day of the Triffids is one day, and yet the books are both about eternity. The novels themselves are about the instant present suffering of the characters, but the idea of them covers that of eternity. The reign of the triffids will last till the end of the Earth (Wyndham 222), and Winston Smith can never find out that the year is 1984 (Orwell web).

Bill Masen witnesses more people die by the hands of humans than the sting of a triffid (Wyndham 59). Humans are more lethal and have more trouble working together than triffids, and the triffids were first grown by the humans for use. So in effect the humans could be viewed as more monstrous than the triffids.

The historical references in the text help to make the inevitable destruction seem more real. One is to the British victory at Alamein in October 1942, during World War II (McCartney web). The title of chapter one: “The End Begins” (Wyndham 3), comes from Winston Churchill's speech on November 10th, 1942 - "This is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning" (McCartney web). There is irony in that in Triffids the whole world has lost to the triffids but Alamein was one of the turning points to British victory (McCartney web). These arguments by themselves mean that Triffids is much more complicated and more-full in texture than the scholars would like to admit (McCartney web). But there is even more to Triffids than this, and it shares some of its extra characteristics and a familiar background of ideas with Orwell's depiction of the peril. The common background can be seen in what Orwell stated when he said that he received the idea of the global split into three major powers after the World War II Teheran conference in 1944 (Delson web). In Day of the Triffids the background is also of the Soviet Union’s exploits and the Cold War (Mccarry web).

According to Masen the triffids were assumed hostilities that the developed world nations used to get into a drive for economical and agricultural self-sufficiency (Wyndham 33). Wyndham transitions from this idea. Eastern biologists, made the experiments that lead to the biological growth in laboratories of the triffids (Wyndham 22). The necessity,



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