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The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

#188: August - October 2023 (Fiction)

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The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

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The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6


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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

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Rendevous (Chapter 6?)
“If we face it squarely, there’s a simple choice,” I said. “Either we can set out to save what can be saved from the wreck—and that has to include ourselves—or we can devote ourselves to stretching the lives of these people a little longer. That is the most objective view I can take.
“But I can see, too, that the more obviously humane course is also, probably, the road to suicide. Should we spend our time in prolonging misery when we believe that there is no chance of saving the people in the end?
Would that be the best use to make of ourselves?”
She nodded slowly.
“Put like that, there doesn’t seem to be much choice, does there? And even if we could save a few, which are we going to choose? And who are we to choose? And how long could we do it, anyway?”
“There’s nothing easy about this,” I said. “I’ve no idea what proportion of semidisabled persons it may be possible for us to support when we come to the end of easy supplies, but I don’t imagine it could be very high.”
“You’ve made up your mind,” she said, glancing at me. There might or might not have been a tinge of disapproval in her voice.
“My dear,” I said, “I don’t like this any more than you do. I’ve put the alternatives badly before you. Do we help those who have survived the catastrophe to rebuild some kind of life? Or do we make a moral gesture which, on the face of it, can scarcely be more than a gesture? The people across the road there evidently intend to survive.”
She dug her fingers into the earth and let the soil trickle out of her hand. “I suppose you’re right,” she said. “But you’re also right when you say I don’t like it.”
P. 85 in Kindle edition
Now some extremely difficult moral dilemmas have arrived with more to come. Although the decision is distasteful and painful, in practical terms they really have only one choice.
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

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I just found this Guide Site to The Day of the Triffids - https://triffids.guidesite.co.uk/summary

Here is its summary for chapters 4, 5 and 6.
Chapter 4: Shadows Before
Bill is wandering the streets when he hears a scream and finds a sighted young woman being beaten by a blind man. He rescues her and she reveals her name as Josella Playton who had missed the comet through a wild party. They drive to Josella's home but find that her family has all been killed by triffids.
________________________________________
Chapter 5: A Light in the Night
On the way to pick up some anti-triffid gear, Bill and Josella are almost caught by a mob of blind people. They evade them, find the gear and clothes, and make their way to an empty flat in a tower block. They plan to leave London soon to somewhere in the country. During the night, they spot a light flashing in the city.
________________________________________
Chapter 6: Rendezvous
In the morning, Bill and Josella make their way to the University of London, the source of the light, where they spot a group of blind people led by a sighted man arguing at the gates. The crowd are dispersed and the pair enter. They learn that the occupants of the University, mostly sighted, are planning to leave London the next day. Bill and Josella are sent out to gather food.
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

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In Chapter Four, Shadows Before, hunger is driving blind people out of their homes, bumping into each other, standing aimlessly in front of broken shop windows. But what to do when the food runs out? Vignettes of this grim process without chivalry include “an elderly man who darted into the roadway with no care for possible obstacles. His expression was vastly cunning, and he clutched avariciously to his chest two cans of red paint.” Also blind people vainly trying to get a sighted toddler to help them. Help or keep clear? A dangerous and difficult question.

A sudden piercing scream leads Bill to a girl crouched on the ground while a blind burly man laid into her with a thin brass rod. He rescues her and finds she can see, so they break into a pub together and have a drink.

Here is Wyndham’s description, worth repeating. “While I sat I stole an occasional covert look at the girl. Her clothes, or the remnants of them, were good quality. Her voice was good too-probably not stage or movie acquired, for it had not deteriorated under stress. She was blond, but quite a number of shades sub-platinum. It seemed likely that beneath the smudges and smears she was good-looking. Her height was three or four inches less than mine, her build slim but not thin. She looked as if she had strength if it were necessary, but strength which, in her approximately twenty-four years, had most likely nor been applied to anything more important than hitting balls, dancing and, probably, restraining horses. Her well-shaped hands were smooth, and the fingernails that were still unbroken showed a length more decorative than practical.”
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

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Josella Playton is quite the rich aristocrat, from a wealthy family with servants. Wyndham presents an irony in having Josella escape blindness by telling her servants not to wake her after taking a sleeping pill, regardless of “comets, earthquakes or the day of judgement itself”. Now that everyone else has been blinded by a comet, it seems that the day of judgement has indeed come, the day of wrath and ashes, as the requiem mass has it, dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla.

Josella was captured by a blind man so she could do his seeing for him. After her rescue by Bill, they drive through London to Josella’s house, seeing the occasional triffid along the way. When they arrive, they find her gardener has been killed by a triffid sting. Bill gets hit by a triffid but it has exhausted its poison so does not kill him too. Entering the house in complete silence, they soon find a triffid standing over her dead father. Without sight, humans are inferior to triffids.
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

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Escaping to their car, Bill and Josella watch a nearby triffid. It seems to be listening to them. It appears these walking plants can also talk and hear.

Driving away, they encounter a mob of blind people being driven along by three triffids. They head to a factory that used to make triffid guns and masks. On the way they get stuck in a crowd and have to abandon the car, due to the anger the blind have toward the very few sighted people. Finding another car, they reach the factory where they stock up on steel boomerangs used to decapitate triffids, and wire mesh helmets.

Apparently, HG Wells used the old saying “In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king.” But in his story, The Country of the Blind, it turned out not to be true. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Country_of_the_Blind explains that in this story a remote Ecuador valley has a disease that blinds everyone at birth, and so they adapt to living without sight. When a visitor arrives, they want to blind him too, so he has to escape.
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

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Finishing the reference to HG Wells, Bill observes that ‘the country of the blind’ is one where people have adapted to a life without sight, but he can’t imagine that happening in the triffid dominated situation they are in. Bill and Josella are developing a romance. They find an opulent apartment to stay in, commenting that all the past concerns about fashion are now obsolete. They watch a young blind couple commit suicide by jumping out a window, prompting the thought that only tough minds will survive this horrendous new world. Fires were catching around the dead and abandoned city, with slow decay and collapse far worse than anyone could have imagined after Hitler’s attack, as London deteriorates like the corpses of ancient ruined metropolises buried in deserts or obliterated by jungle.

Bill ponders that it must be one of humanity’s most persistent and comforting hallucinations to trust that "it can't happen here"- that one's own little time and place is beyond cataclysms. This is a theme directly relevant to our current climate crisis. The sudden category five hurricane that just smashed Acapulco is a harbinger of the emerging extreme weather, driven by the excess heat in the ocean, like the bizarre floods in Libya and other unexpected places. Apparently the loss of Antarctic sea ice this year has warming effect equivalent to a trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide…
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

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Josella explains her privileged background, they mourn the loss of civilization, and it turns out she was the author of a notorious book, Sex is my Adventure.

They plan their strategy, noting that London is starting to stink and they have to escape before epidemics take hold. They plan to fill a truck with essential stuff, and then go to bed, but are woken up by a bright searchlight, indicating the location of other people who can see. They go to sleep to the sound of crazy sobbing from the streets.
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Re: The Day of the Triffids - Ch. 4 - 6

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A searchlight leads Bill and Josella to the University, where they encounter a heated debate at the gate, with those outside arguing intensely that the sighted must care for the blind majority. The insiders can see, and they respond with gunfire. The callous reality is that the sighted could only care for the blind for a short time. Saving what can be saved means jettisoning the blind. The more obviously humane course is a road to suicide. Why prolong misery with no chance of recovery? Moral gestures avail little in the face of risks to survival.

The group in the University has 35 members including seven who are blind. Bill and Josella are given the job of finding bulk food in shops. They discover their fear of triffids is not shared by others, who don’t agree on the need for anti-triffid measures. Some think Bill is scatty about it. He points out that with nothing to stop them the triffids will breed up.

Josella muses that “one of the most shocking things is to realize how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain." From familiarity one forgets all the forces which keep the balance, and thinks of security as normal. They have discovered that intelligence without sight is useless. This reminds me of Kant’s precept that concepts without perception are empty.
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