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the reader’s guide to
the DAY of the TRIFFIDS

Timeline

John Wyndham does not define the actual years for the story. He mentions satellites in chapter 2 which suggests a date quite far from 1951 when it was written (the first actual satellite was Sputnik, launched on 4 October, 1957). The main character, Bill Masen, is nearly thirty at the time and was introduced to triffids as a child when they were quite new. But the appearance of triffids in chapter 2 refers to the USSR and jet aeroplanes so the main story could not have been set in the 1950s (as Bill would have been growing up in the 1930s and jet aircraft were not around then). If the section on the first appearance of the triffids is set around 1950, then we can use these guides:

If he was born in 1940, then the main story begins around the end of the 1970s. The first date mentioned is Wednesday 8 May and the nearest years with that combination of day of the week and date are 1974 and 1985 so I set the beginning of the story as the earlier date which fits in reasonably well. Naturally, as Wyndham was writing in 1951, this brings in anomolies such as Bill expecting to hear the sound of horses in the streets in chapter 1 but this is to be expected with any story based in the future.

Early manuscripts of The Day of the Triffids in the Wyndham Archive (University of Liverpool) have deleted year and day dates that are not entirely consistent but it seems that the novel was first set in 1965 and that that date was later advanced to 1976.
(Thanks to David Ketterer)

Year Date Characters Chaps
1946 Bill Masen born.
1953 Triffids begin to appear around the world. 2
1955 Bill is hurt by a triffid sting as a child. 2
1974 End April Bill is temporarily blinded by a triffid sting and enters hospital. 1
Tue 7 May The night of the comet when anyone who sees the flashes is blinded. 1
  Wed 8 May Bill Masen wakes up in the hospital before 08:00. Meets Jo Playton. At Shirning, the Dansons leave and Joyce is stung by a triffid. 1, 3–5, 14
  Thu 9 May Bill and Jo travel to the University. They spend most of the day gathering supplies. In the evening they go to the conference. At Shirning, Dennis begins to make trips to the village. 6, 7, 14
  Fri 10 May Some of the University people are captured by Coker and his gang. Bill finds himself locked alone in a room. 8
  Sat 11 May Bill and his party move to Swiss Cottage and find a place to stay. Michael Beadley returns to the University. 8, 10
  Sun 12 May The Beadley and Durrant parties leave for Tynsham. 10
  Mon 13 May Beadley's party leaves Tynsham for Oxfordshire. 10, 16
  Wed 15 May Two of BIll's party fall ill. Bill encounters Torrence. 8
  Thu 16 May Bill finds his party either dying of an illness or fled. He tries to find Josella but fails and returns to the University. Meets Coker again. Josella reaches the University and leaves for Sussex. 8, 9, 14
  Fri 17 May Bill and Coker leave London for Tynsham. Josella reaches Shirning. 9, 10, 14
  Mon 20 May Bill and Coker leave Tynsham and arrive at Beaminster. 11, 12
  Tue 21 May Bill and the others begin searching for Josella and the Beadley party. 12
  Wed 22 May The party begin helicopter searches (until Saturday 25th). 12
  Sun 26 May Bill decides to go to Sussex and leaves the Beaminster party. Finds Susan. 12, 13
  Mon 27 May Bill and Susan continue onto Sussex. Reach Josella and Shirning late in the evening. 13
  June? Mary gives birth. 14
  3 weeks later Bill drives to Tynsham and finds it deserted except for dead bodies. 14
1975 After May Bill visits London again. 15
  End of summer Beadley's group dissatisfied with their location. 16
  November Bill and Josella's first child, David, born. 15
1976 March Beadley's group move to the Isle of Wight. 16
1978 End of year Bill visits London for the last time. 15
1979 May Ivan Simpson finds Coker. 16
  June Bill and Josella visit the coast. See the helicopter and meet Ivan Simpson. 15, 16
  June, next day Torrence visits Shirning. Late at night, Bill and the others leave for the Isle of Wight. 17
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