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The novel The Day of the Triffids is a unique narrative about a post-apocalyptic world that focuses strongly on social and personal analysis. As the plot unfolds, the protagonist encounters various situations and characters that offer a distinct perspective on life after the meteor shower. Wyndham includes minor characters in order to give depth and realism to the plot. Just like real life, each person has their own story and a different mindset towards survival in the ensuing chaos. Dennis Brent is a character who the author includes in order to represent resilience through his will to survive and adapt for the sake of his family.
Dennis Brent is the owner of Shrining Farm who lives with his pregnant wife and a family friend, Joyce Taylor. The meteor shower blinds all the inhabitants and the farm is isolated. After Joyce is stung by a triffid, Dennis is able to think rationally, sucking the poison from the wound and applying first aid. This helps save Joyce’s life. Realizing that supplies would be needed, Dennis sets out to the nearby village.
However, unlike other characters, he devises protection for himself by using household tools. Dennis continually exhibits critical thinking by using a vine to guide himself to the village, using his other senses to determine his surroundings, and taking precautionary measures. He is able to come up with practical solutions to compensate for the lack of vision or availability of resources.
However, his bravery and determination are especially prominent in his continuous attempts to explore and develop. Despite various difficulties, Dennis seeks to acquire and learn Braille. “He did not curse in the futile way I had heard so many others do; he resented it with a vicious bitterness as if it had forced him into a cage where he did not intend to stay” (Wyndham 101). Both his blindness and the state of things greatly frustrate Dennis, who seems to have an efficient approach to finding solutions to any problem.
Nevertheless, he is still human and faces the fear of losing his life, family, and home. “Worst, perhaps, for Dennis in knowing that everything depended on the care of two willing but inexperienced girls. His self-control aroused my helpless admiration” (Wyndham 101). Despite any physical or emotional struggles, he keeps his pride and independence, refusing to succumb to despair or rely on anyone but himself. In dire situations, Dennis remains levelheaded, thus ensuring survival for himself and those he cared about.
Reasons for Including the Character
Despite being a rather minor character that only appears towards the end of the novel, his appearance plays a significant role in the plot. The stability and resilience of his household provide a safe haven for the protagonist. The chapters where Dennis first appears serve as a point of reflection, consolidation, and preparation for the characters before the denouement of the plot. A close connection is formed between Dennis and Bill as they both work towards creating a stable home for their loved ones. This becomes evident with the arrival of Torrence, which forces them out of their home. Despite not being directly threatened, Bill takes a risk to protect Dennis’s family as a way to return the favor for previously taking them in.
Dennis is a very complex character and serves as an exemplification of an honorable man in Wyndham’s novel. The blindness that led to the crumbling of society was symbolic of a loss of self-control. Dennis took a rational approach and was able to defend against the triffids despite being blind, and later maintained the household with the help of Bill. Wyndham attempts to use Dennis as a foil for the deterioration of a society that could have continued to survive if people had chosen to maintain their humanity.
As is typical in post-apocalyptic narratives, there are characters who emerge as monsters, losing any aspect of morality. Meanwhile, Dennis is representative of human virtue, especially the traits of compassion, determination, and love, which help him keep his family alive in a time of hopelessness. It gives the reader a unique perspective in comparison to other characters’ transformations.
Dennis Brent is a critical character in Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids who drives the narrative forward while playing a symbolic role. His will to survive and determination to protect his family earn respect in the eyes of the protagonist and the reader. Wyndham uses the character to show the importance of maintaining one’s humanity and rationality in times of chaos.
Wyndham, John. The Day of the Triffids. The Modern Library, 2003.