What are the cold war references in The Birds short story by Du Maurier?

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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The paranoia and terror caused by the birds’ attack on the humans in this story echoes the fear of spying, infiltration and potential war that underpinned the American political mood at the time - in particular the fear of a war with the other super-power,Russia. The Cold War was not a war in the true sense of the word but involved a 'war of attrition' where relations cooled and friendly international links were broken. The author alludes to some of these tensions in her work. For example,one reference seems to be illustrated by the reaction of Nat's wife to the attack. She wants him to ring the army: ‘what they ought to do,’ she said, ‘is to call the army out and shoot the birds. That would soon scare them off.' Here she is displaying irrational panic, because as Du Maurier suggests, risking thousands of human lives in order to defeat nature would not be feasible or right. Humans have intellectual dominance but nature can undo the works of man and has sheer strength in numbers.

Then Nat himself makes a reference to the Cold War,telling a neighbour that local people think the Russians have poisoned the birds. This illustrates ignorance and also the power of propaganda. It is possible that small town folks have been influenced by the media and are gullible and unquestioning,not analysing and thinking for themselves. Their first scapegoat for any crisis is to blame the Russians in the run up to the Cold War.

Becomingly increasingly desperate, like a country needing troop reinforcements, Nat's wife makes another reference to the Cold War, calling on the Americans to help Britain out again. She seems to think that if her small country can't defeat the avian attack, then maybe a larger superpower ally can. This illustrates Britain's relationship with America - many politicians at the time were concerned that too much dependence was not healthy. It would be worth looking up these references and illustrating your answer with quotations.

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