After missing an historic ‘meteor shower’ due having his eyes bandaged in hospital, Bill Masen wakes to discover that the world is in a state of disarray. It is clear that the so called meteor shower has left all who saw it blind. The author hints that there is more carnage to come with the use of foreshadowing.
“It is not easy to think oneself back to the outlook of those days…there was so much routine…and all the more disturbing, therefore, when the routine was in any way upset” pg 16.
“The place looked – well, you’ll have seen one of Dore’s pictures of sinners in hell.” pg 21.
“There was nothing to be heard – nothing but the rustle of a dirty newspaper blown down the empty street. Such a quietness held everything as cannot have been known in those parts for a thousand years or more.” pg 23.
In this chapter we are provided with Bill’s own personal history, where we learn that he is a biologist who has been concerned about triffids for many years. We are told that this is “a personal record” pg 25 and this helps to include the reader.
The author also hints at what has happened to the world by reflecting on what once was: “The world we lived in then was wide, and most of it was open to us, with little trouble. Roads, railways, and shipping lines laced it, ready to carry one thousands of miles safely in comfort. If we wanted to travel more swiftly still, and could afford it, we travelled by aeroplane. There was no need for anyone to take weapons or even precautions in those days…A world so tamed sounds utopian now” pg 27.
There are also hints about ecological tampering such as genetic modification of crops, the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the use of and development of biological weapons.
“They were the outcome of a series of ingenious biological meddlings” pg 27
“that plant, intended to be kept secret, could come, quite suddenly, to be found in almost every part of the world” pg 37.
“It was a little time later that the first one picked up its roots, and walked” pg 38.
“The whorl topping a triffid’s stem could lash out as a slender stinging weapon ten feet long, capable of discharging enough poison to kill a man if struck squarely on his unprotected skin.” pg 43
“the public had by this time grown out of thinking triffids freakish” pg 47
“there could be danger in them” pg 49
“the existence of a well-developed intelligence” pg 49
“considering what was just around the corner for us all” pg 51 (more foreshadowing)
We return to London as Bill leaves the hospital and discovers the chaos around him. Shocked at the state of what has happened, Bill finds the strength to continue on.
“as long as I remained my normal self, things might even yet in some inconceivable way return to their normal” pg 53.
“such a foolish niceness of sensibility in a stricken world” pg 53
“for most of them the day of wrath had already arrived” pg 57
“my head was still full of standards and conventions that had ceased to apply” pg 59
“There would be no going back – ever. It was finish to all I had known…” pg 60
“My way of life, my plans, ambitions, every expectation I had had, they were all wiped out at a stroke” pg 60
“I was emerging as my own master” pg 60
“It might be a world full of horrors and dangers that I should have to face, but I could take my own steps to deal with it” pg 60.
Bill continues to explore his surroundings and notices that very quickly humans are beginning to become uncivilised. He meets Josella Playton (who is also able to see). They return to Josella’s home and experience their first vicious attack from a triffid.
“What was going on was a grim business without chivalry, with no give and all take about it” pg 62.
“But you can’t change and turn brutal all at once” pg 69
“the gift of sight…was now something surpassing all riches” pg 70
“The future seemed to me at that time a choice between a lonely existence, always in fear of capture, or of gathering together a selected group which we could rely on to protect us from other groups” pg 72
“A triffid’s in a damn sight better position to survive than a blind man” pg 77
Josella and Bill find a vacant apartment and decide to stay there for the night. Whilst there they reflect on what has happened to the world around them.
“Only those who can make their minds tough enough to stick it are going to get through” pg 85
“It was not wanton smashing and wilful burning that they waited for this time: it was simply the long, slow, inevitable course of decay and collapse” pg 86
“It must be, I thought, one of the race’s most persistent and comforting hallucinations to trust that ‘it can’t happen here’ – …and now it was happening here.” pg 86
“Unless there should be some miracle I was looking on the beginning of the end of London” pg 86
“From time to time voices rose from the street, edgy and brittle with hysteria” pg 95
“Alone one would be nothing” pg 95
Bill and Josella decide that they should save themselves rather than help others. They come across a group of people, lead by the Colonel and Michael Beadley, at the university who have a plan for the future. There is unrest as some people (Coker) disagree with their decision and feel that they are being selfish in not saving others.
“aren’t you people human” [Coker] pg 101
“A world doesn’t end like this – it can’t – it isn’t possible” [Josella] pg 111
“I saw an empty world with a few scattered communities trying to fight their way back to control of it” pg 112
“One of the most shocking things about it is to realise how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain” [Josella] pg 113
All of the people at the University decide that they will rebuild and try and forge a new society.
“The conditions which framed and taught us our standards have gone with it” [Dr of Sociology] pg 119
“We have not simply to start building again: we have to start thinking again – which is much more difficult and far more distasteful” [Dr of Sociology] pg 119
“avoid a relapse into barbarism – which is an appreciable danger” pg 121
Coker and his men stage a fake fire drill at the University and capture most who were there, including Bill and Josella, although they are separated. Coker puts them to work, finding food to feed the masses of blind people. Bill questions what is the lesser of two evils: to stay and prolong the misery of the blind, or to leave them to fend for themselves.
“intelligence is by no means the only thing that makes the human wheels go
round” pg 133
“The triffids weren’t slow to be interested. That uncanny sensitiveness to sound told them something was happening” pg 145
“I found myself thinking of Michael Beadley and his lot again. I had known that they were logical, now I began to think that they had a truer humanity, too. They had seen that it was hopeless to try and save any but a very few” pg 146
“And isn’t there something a little sad about youth and beauty in any circumstances…?” pg 147
“Life is very precious – even like this” [Young girl to Bill] pg 147
A sickness is overtaking the people of London and Bill knows that he must leave London. He meets up with Coker, they reconcile, and both head to the country address that was written on the wall of the now abandoned University.
“in an environment reverting to savagery it seems that one must be prepared to behave more or less as a savage” pg 151
“Now, for the first time I began to feel the horror that real loneliness holds for a species that is by nature gregarious” pg 152
“Already I was on my way back to the primitive” pg 158
“There is an inability to sustain the tragic mood, a phoenix quality of the mind. It may be helpful or harmful, it is just a part of the will to survive” pg 164
Bill arrives at Tynsham Manor where Miss Durrant has taken charge and declared that the manor will be run with strong Christian values. Coker voices his opinions about women how they have been trained to behave in a certain way.
“Decadence, immorality, and lack of faith were responsible for most of the world’s ills” [Miss Durrant] pg 169
“triffids about in considerable numbers” pg 173
“changed conditions must mean changed outlooks” [Coker] pg 177
“She’ll oppose any modification, reasonable or not, that conflicts with her previously trained feelings of what is right and polite” [Coker] pg 178
Bill and his team decide that they will leave Tynsham manor and try and look for Michael Beadley and his team.
“Decent intentions seem to be the most dangerous things around just now” [Coker] pg 183
“There’s a kind of conspiracy not to believe things about triffids’ [Bill] pg 186
“I began to wonder just how big a part the triffids might have been playing in the disappearance of the inhabitants” pg 188
“It was not, as I had to tell myself firmly, any good at all going into an earthquake area while the buildings were still falling – the rescue and the salvage had to be done when the tremors had stopped” pg 189
Bill decides that he must find Josella and the others return back to Tynsham Manor. He finds three other people who decide to join him. One of them is convinced that America will come and help them, although the others find that highly unlikely. The triffids are becoming an increasing problem.
“Triffids were at large” pg 197
“Horrible alien things which some of us had somehow created and which the rest of us in our careless greed had cultured all over the world. One could not even blame nature for them. Somehow they had been bred – just as we bred ourselves beautiful flowers, or grotesque parodies of dogs … I began to loathe them now far more than their carrion-eating habits – they, more than anything else, seemed to profit and flourish on our disaster” pg 197
“Nowhere could I see a sign of living human beings” pg 197
“American fairy godmothers” pg 202
“Later, we’ll have to plough, still later we’ll have to learn how to make plough-shares, later than that we’ll have to learn how to smelt iron to make the shares” [Coker] pg 203
Bill continues on his search to find Josella and finds Susan, a small child, who has been spared blindness but is all alone. She joins Bill on his journey. They travel dangerous roads and finally find Josella in a farm house where she has been staying with others.
“To deprive a gregarious creature of companionship is to maim it, to outrage its nature” pg 208
Bill and Josella settle in to the farmhouse. Bill returns back to Tynsham
Manor to check on Coker and the others and finds that they have all been affected by the sickness and it is abandoned.
“No – the world’s gone, and we’re left…we must make our own lives” [Josella] pg 227
Bill continues building the farm and maintaining fencing to keep the triffids out. A few years pass and during this time and Bill returns to London city to view the devastation.
“Almost every building was beginning to wear a green wig” pg 230
“Once – not that year, nor the next, but later on – I stood in Piccadilly Circus again, looking around at the desolation, and trying to recreate in my mind’s eye the crowds that once swarmed there” pg 231
“the triffid’s apparent ability to learn, in at least a limited way, from experience” pg 240
“It rather frightens me. It’s as if everything were breaking out. Rejoicing that we’re finished, and that it’s free to go on its own way” [Josella] pg 242
“where there’s life, there’s hope” [Bill] pg 242
“The triffids are a real factor. They are something that no rising civilisation has had to fight before. Are they going to take the world off us, or are we going to be able to stop them?” pg 242
“I go sentimental when you play records – there is something rather frightening about a great orchestra which has passed away still playing on to a little group of people hemmed in and gradually growing more primitive” [Josella] pg 244
“A tradition of a vanished golden age and ancestors who were magicians would be a most damning thing. Whole races have had that sort of inferiority complex which has sunk into lassitude on the tradition of a glorious past” [Bill] pg 245
“Do you think we could – do you think we should be justified in starting a myth to help them? A story of a world that was wonderfully clever, but so wicked that it had to be destroyed – or destroyed itself by accident” [Josella] pg 245
“I find that it’s just the wrong side of a coincidence for me to believe that out of all the thousands of years in which a destructive comet could arrive, it happens to do so just a few years after we have succeeded in establishing satellite weapons” [Bill] pg 248
Bill and Josella are contacted by Ivan Simpson who tells them that Michael Beadley has developed a community and they decide that they will join them shortly.
“Tribal communities … they’d escaped from being governed, and in spite of their troubles they didn’t want any more of it” [Ivan Simpson] pg 256
“We aren’t out to reconstruct – we want to build something new and better” [Ivan Simpson] pg 258
“Time was on the triffid’s side. They only had to go on waiting while we used up our resources” pg 259
Mr Torrence, the Chief Executive Officer of the Emergency Council for the South-Eastern Region of Britain. He proposes that he will take Susan and give Josella and Bill twenty more blind people to look after, whom he may treat like slaves. They of course find this idea reprehensible and escape to join Beadley’s community.
“the first country to get on its feet again and put itself in order is also going to be the country to have the chance of bringing order elsewhere. Do you suggest that we should leave it to some other country to do this, and let it become the new dominant power in Europe – and possibly further afield?” [Mr Torrence] pg 267
“We think now that we can see the way, but there is still a lot of work and research to be done before the day when we, our children, or their children, will cross the narrow straits on the great crusade to drive the triffids back and back with careless destruction until we have wiped the last on of them from the face of the land that they have usurped” pg 27