(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The novel, which was published in the United States as Village of the Damned (1960), draws upon several literary and mythological commonplaces, primarily the figure of the changeling—the child who is reared by a parent not his own and who possesses strange powers—and the threat posed to human society by a superior Other. In terms of science fiction, The Midwich Cuckoos recalls such invasion tales as H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1898) and stories of the evolution of a superior race that threatens to displace humanity. The evolutionary theme is treated in one of John Wyndham’s earlier novels, Re-Birth (1955; also titled The Chrysalids). The collective consciousness the Children possess may be inspired by Jungian notions of the collective unconscious. It is interesting to note that Jung actually read the novel.

Given the fact that the novel was published at the height of the Cold War, it is hard to ignore the political themes connected with the confrontation between the Children and the villagers. The aliens are, on one level, a projection of anxieties about the Eastern bloc and its communistic social system, with the villagers representing the West. Midwich functions as an archetypal location: The threat posed to this small village is actually a threat to human civilization as a whole. The underpinnings of this civilization are themselves held up to scrutiny, and its values of compassion and...

(The entire section is 441 words.)