John Wyndham acknowledged that the most fundamental influence on his work was H. G. Wells, particularly works such as The Time Machine (1895) and The War of the Worlds (1898). The influence of the latter on The Day of the Triffids is easy to see. Each story is told in the first person by a man who reports the disaster as a piece of recent history. Both stories take place in or near London, and Wyndham, like Wells, grounds his fantasy in everyday reality by emphasizing exact topographical details. The disaster itself, an unusual cosmic event in which no one senses any danger, is common to both stories, and both Wells and Wyndham emphasize how the catastrophe shatters human complacency and its naïve faith in the durability and invincibility of its own civilization.

Several of Wyndham’s characters resemble those in Wells’s story of Martian invasion. Those who cling to old rules of thought and behavior meet with disaster, including the curate in The War of the Worlds and the moralistic Miss Denning and the postdisaster community she attempts to found in The Day of the Triffids. The prototypes of Wyndham’s visionaries, such as Coker and Beadley, are reminiscent of Wells’s artilleryman, who quickly grasps the new situation and makes plans for the survival of humanity.

Like Wells’s novel, The Day of the Triffids is a pessimistic view of evolution and natural selection. Because of its...

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