John Wyndham's politics

What "political message", ugly or otherwise, does Alec Ryrie (Letters, 3 December) suppose John Wyndham to have been sending? In The Chrysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos, we get two views of a struggle between an established species and a potentially superior one that threatens to displace it. In Chrysalids, the new species prevails; in Cuckoos, the old one manages to survive for another innings. In both cases, Wyndham takes the viewpoint of the victim rather than the aggressor. In Cuckoos, only after the children have openly declared that no long-term compromise is possible does Gordon Zellaby take them at their word and act accordingly. And in Chrysalids, the hero's father is apparently ready to kill his own son in the name of a "greater loyalty" (race purity or whatever) when the son turns against him. As for The Day of the Triffids, the clergyman's idea of helping the blind majority involved capturing as many of the sighted as he could and keeping each of them chained to a blind person so that they didn't get any ideas about absconding - they would have been not carers, but slaves. Not surprisingly, the central character has other ideas. Later on, he encounters a "nation-builder" type who favours a very different arrangement - carving up the country into feudal baronies with a sighted elite ruling over lots of blind serfs.

The hero rejects both these options. He is perfectly willing to assist blind survivors where he can, but only where he can do so on a more equal footing. He moves in with a blind household, but makes no attempt to "take over". Indeed, he irritates the "feudalist" by insisting that the blind man is the owner of the property, and should be doing the talking. In his visitor's "New Order", the blind are viewed as non-citizens.

The message would seem to be similar to Abraham Lincoln's "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master". I suppose that could be called political, but I don't really see what is ugly about it.

Mike Stone

This article first appeared in the 10 December 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Special Report - The great Koran con trick