By contrast, novels such as Wyndham’s can be seen as part of a larger anxiety about the waning of British power from the beginning of the 20th century on. The end of the world, for Wyndham and his countrymen is more about a larger historical process than the more fervid, religious fantasies of the Americans. Like Ozymandias’ statue in Shelley’s antique land, the silent streets and cities of England speak to the folly of human ambition, and to the British sense of Imperial decline.
It’s also possible, I suspect, to see novels such as The Day of the Triffids as part of the same desire to create a national mythology founded in the imagined past of Albion one sees at work in Tolkien, or even writers such as E. Nesbit. This desire – explored with some potency in A.S. Byatt’s remarkable novel, The Children’s Book – can be seen moving in the margins of even such seemingly unsentimental works as The Day of the Triffids, and their images of the forests reclaiming the “sterile” space of England’s cities and towns, as indeed it can be in the novel’s broader unease with modernity and its creations, and its suggestion in its final pages of the founding of a new, agrarian society, not that different, in its way, from the sort imagined by William Blake two centuries earlier.