What are the themes in The Day of the Triffids, written by John Wyndham? Also, what makes the characters relevant regardless of which era you read the novel in?

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dule05 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Day of the Triffids abounds with many themes: catastrophe, natural selection and evolution, the human need for survival, the threat of invasion and human extinction, the collapse of moral values in a dystopian society, the importance of hope, etc. However, I would like to focus on the two of the most important themes: the survival and reestablishment of the human race and the importance of science.

This novel presents us with a dystopian world, in which we are faced with a pessimistic view of humanity. When our protagonist, Bill Masen, awaits the doctors to take off the bandages which covered his eyes, he soon realizes that the world has gone blind as a result of an unexpected green meteor shower which people enjoyed looking at the day before. All of a sudden, the world is thrown into chaos; humans are no longer the most powerful species on the planet because their ability to see has been taken away from them. They cannot cope without being able to see, unlike a triffid, a type of carnivorous plant, engineered and cultivated by humans for its useful oil. Triffids can thrive without their ability to see, unlike humans, and they can kill humans. Upon learning what has happened, Bill joins a few sighted humans in London in order to find some kind of solution. As he gets into contact with some people and communities that try to survive, he learns that the only way humans can attempt to survive is if they rely on rationalism and science as opposed to religious and feudal ideas represented by Miss Denning and others. The end of the novel supports this, as Bill, together with others of the Isle of Wight community, plans to take control of the world again through research, which could help humans defeat the triffids.

The second theme, the importance of science, is also worth being discussed. The novel implies that humans are to blame for their tragedy because they carelessly manufactured this dangerous type of plant. So, the consequences that ensued were due to human mistakes. In this regard, science is viewed as extremely perilous if used for the wrong purposes. However, science also proves to be the necessary factor if humans are to restore order on the planet. Bill, with the Beadley community, plans to conduct scientific research which could enable humans to regain power. In this way, science offers hope.

As for the characters in the novel, their actions and ideas are relevant regardless of when we read this novel because they reveal how humans could deal with or react to some sort of catastrophe or disaster that might strike our planet.

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