Notes for 12 October 2015
Teaching Associate: Patrick Mooney
Bldg. 494, room 160B
- Hunner and Code-Switching (optional material)
The atomic bomb thrust the United States into a totally new age, one full of promise and peril. Atomic energy dramatically altered the way the government operated, the military fought, the economy functioned, and ordinary people felt. Reacting to this new reality, people responded with new ways of living. They searched for ways to understand and live in the Atomic Age and in so doing created a new culture. (Hunner 33)
The Cold War conception of nuclear reality represented an attempt to think about the unthinkable, to conceptualize an unintelligible event and rationalize a world that seemed to be irrational, by reducing the apparently unimaginable experience of nuclear war to a set of routines. (45)
Faced for the first time with an atomic explosion, some witnesses had to culturally code switch to understand the event. When Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the civilian director of the laboratory at Los Alamos, experienced the first atomic detonation at Trinity in July 1945, he thought Hindu scripture from the Baghavad-Gita: (34)
I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
As early as August 12. 1945, journalist Edward R. Murrow said on his radio program, (38)
Seldom if ever has a war ended leaving the victors with such a sense of uncertainty and fear, with such a realization that the future is obscure and that survival is not assured.
- Triffids as figuring fears of nuclear war
A world so tamed sounds utopian now. Nevertheless, it was so over five sixths of the globe—though the remaining sixth was something different again. (21)
- Satellite weaponry: 22–23
- Dr. Vorless's speech:
From August 6, 1945, the margin of survival has narrowed appallingly. [...] the balance would have been lost and the destruction let loose. [...] there might have been no survivors; there might possibly have been no planet. (95–96)
- Whose fault is the disaster? (i.e., Bill:
the foot had to slip (204–206)
- Notes on Wyndham and Day of the Triffids
- A defining characteristic of Wyndham’s fiction is
the manipulation of one fundamental element that introduces chaos into an organised society and culminates in the decimated civilisation making a desperate attempt to reinvent itself and survive. (Mark Slattery,
Down on Triffid Farm)
With its psychological interest in how ordinary people react to extraordinary situations, and its air of cold war anxiety, the novel [Day of the Triffids] is characteristic of much of Wyndham's mature work. (Alastair Horne, Literature Online biography of Wyndham)
- Triffids as representative postapocalyptic fiction
- , its (social) construction, and its precarity.
But then [before the (12; ch. 1)
Great Catastrophe] there was so much routine, things were so interlinked. Each one of us so steadily did his little part in the right place that it was easy to mistake habit and custom for the natural law.
Triffids were, admittedly, a bit weird—but that was, after all, just because they were a novelty. […] The bat was an animal that had learned to fly; well, here was a plant that had learned to walk—what of that? (29; ch. 2)
You know, one of the most shocking things about it is to realize how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain. (93; ch. 6; et seq.)
[T]hose of us who get through are going to be much nearer to one another, more dependent on one another, more like—well, more like a tribe than we ever were before. (104; ch. 7)
They [triffids] couldn't do that here until conditions made it possible. (196; ch. 15; alas, not yet assigned)
- , and the presuppositions that go into our systems of valuing.
Wha's good of living blind's a bat? (17; ch. 1)
(55; ch. 4)
Anybody who has had a great treasure has always led a precarious existence, she [Josella] said reflectively.
[M]y existence simply had no focus any longer. My way of life, my plans, ambitions, every expectation I had had, they were all wiped out at a stroke, along with the conditions that had formed them. (46; ch. 3)
- Often, a specific concern is the :
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? […] 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? (85; ch. 6)
- Dr. Vorless:
We must all see, if we pause to think, that one kind of community’s virtue may well be another kind of community’s crime; that what is frowned upon here may be considered laudable elsewhere; that customs condemned in one country are condoned in another. (98; ch. 7)
- – and how causes result in effects.
Certainly they [the triffids] were not spontaneously generated, as many simple souls believed. Nor did most people endorse the theory that they were a kind of sample visitation – harbingers of worse to come if the world did not mend its ways and behave its troublesome self. Nor did their seeds float to us through space as specimens of the horrid forms that life might assume upon other, less favored worlds […] My own belief, for what that is worth, is that they were the outcome of a series of ingenious biological meddlings – and very likely accidental. (20; ch. 2)
[A] tall, elderly, gaunt man with a bush of wiry gray hair […] was holding forth emphatically about repentance, the wrath to come, and the uncomfortable prospects of sinners. Nobody was paying him any attention; for most of them the day of wrath had already arrived. (43; ch. 3)
- What it means to be , and how the human is separated from
it was easy to mistake habit and custom for the natural law. (12)
Still I had the feeling that it was all something too big, too unnatural really to happen. (70)
God almighty, aren’t you people human? (81; ch. 6)
I had the feeling that it was all something too big, too unnatural really to happen. (70; ch. 5)
- Dr. Vorless:
I would ask you to consider very carefully whether or not you do hold a warrant from God to deprive any woman of the happiness of carrying out her natural functions. (101; ch. 7)
Triffids, huh! Nasty damn things, I reckon. Not natcheral, as you might say. (110; ch. 8)
(121; ch. 8)
Bloody unnatural brutes, said one.
I always did hate them bastards.
- Commander Torrance: Feudalism is
the obvious and quite natural social and economic form for that state of things we are having to face now. (222; ch. 17)
- a preview: Bill, quoting Macbeth:
Nature seemed about finished then— (202; ch. 15)
Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?
- another preview: Torrance:
it [feudalism] is, of course, the obvious and quite natural social and economic form for that state of things we are having to face now. (222; ch. 17)
- Today's whiteboard shots: