The Birds

by

Daphne du Maurier

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Birds can help.
The protagonist of the story, Nat is a World War II veteran with a disability who works part-time as a farmhand. A married father of two, he appreciates solitude, order, and the satisfaction of completing simple tasks. He is the only character to take the birds’ initial attack seriously, and his attempts to warn his neighbors of the impending threat are met with mockery and dismissal. Nat goes to great lengths to protect his family throughout the story, drawing from his military background and survivalist instincts to outwit the birds. Nat also repeatedly attempts to shield his family from the reality of their situation, blocking dead bodies from their view, cracking jokes over dinner, and putting on an air of ease even as he senses the increasing hopelessness of their situation. Despite his perseverance, it is unclear whether Nat is actually able to save his family at the end of the story.

Nat Hocken Quotes in The Birds

The The Birds quotes below are all either spoken by Nat Hocken or refer to Nat Hocken. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the New York Review Books edition of The Birds published in 2008.
The Birds Quotes

Perhaps, thought Nat, munching his pasty by the cliff’s edge, a message comes to the birds in autumn, like a warning. Winter is coming. Many of them perish. And like people who, apprehensive of death before their time, drive themselves to work or folly, the birds do likewise.

Related Characters: Nat Hocken (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Nat gazed at the little corpses, shocked and horrified. They were all small birds, none of any size; there must have been fifty of them lying there upon the floor. There were robins, finches, sparrows, blue tits, larks, and bramblings, birds that by nature’s law kept to their own flock and their own territory, and now, joining one with another in their urge for battle, had destroyed themselves against the bedroom walls or in the strife had been destroyed by him. Some had lost feathers in the fight; others had blood, his blood, upon their beaks.

Related Characters: Nat Hocken
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

It was, Nat thought, like air raids in the war. No one down this end of the country knew what the Plymouth folk had seen and suffered. You had to endure something yourself before it touched you.

Related Characters: Nat Hocken
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

The announcer’s voice was smooth and suave. Nat had the impression that this man, in particular, treated the whole business as he would an elaborate joke. There would be others like him, hundreds of them, who did not know what it was to struggle in darkness with a flock of birds.

Related Characters: Nat Hocken, The Radio Announcer
Related Symbols: The Wireless Radio
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Nat thought to himself that “they” were no doubt considering the problem at that very moment, but whatever “they” decided to do in London and the big cities would not help the people here, three hundred miles away. Each householder must look after his own.

Related Characters: Nat Hocken, Mrs. Hocken / Nat’s Wife
Page Number: 73-74
Explanation and Analysis:

“I don’t want a gun,” said Nat, “but I’d be obliged if you’d run Jill home. She’s scared of the birds.”

He spoke briefly. He did not want to talk in front of Jill.

“OK,” said the farmer, “I’ll take her home. Why don’t you stop behind and join the shooting match? We’ll make the feathers fly.”

Jill climbed in, and turning the car, the driver sped up the lane. Nat followed after. Trigg must be crazy.

What use was a gun against a sky of birds?

Related Characters: Nat Hocken (speaker), Mr. Trigg (speaker), Jill Hocken
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

There was no further drone of aircraft, and the naval guns had ceased. “Waste of life and effort,” Nat said to himself. “We can’t destroy enough of them that way. Cost too heavy. There’s always gas. Maybe they’ll try spraying with gas, mustard gas. We’ll be warned first, of course, if they do. There’s one thing, the best brains of the country will be onto it tonight.”

Related Characters: Nat Hocken (speaker)
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

There was some law the birds obeyed, and it was all to do with the east wind and the tide.

Related Characters: Nat Hocken
Related Symbols: The East Wind
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

That was the line. Keep her busy, and the children too. Move about, eat, drink; always best to be on the go.

Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

Nat listened to the tearing sound of splintering wood and wondered how many million years of memory were stored in those little brains, behind the stabbing beaks, the piercing eyes, now giving them this instinct to destroy mankind with all the deft precision of machines.

Related Characters: Nat Hocken
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Birds LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Birds PDF

Nat Hocken Character Timeline in The Birds

The timeline below shows where the character Nat Hocken appears in The Birds. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Birds
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
...of December in a quiet, seaside town, the season shifts abruptly from autumn to winter. Nat Hocken, a disabled veteran who works part-time on a farm, observes that there seem to... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
Nat tells the farmer Mr. Trigg about the birds, and Mr. Trigg asserts that the weather... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
At home in his cottage that night, Nat wakes up to the east wind whipping outside. Hearing a rapping on his windowpane, he... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
The rapping sound returns and when Nat opens the window to investigate, a half dozen birds fly at his face. He drives... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
...the sea seems wilder, and the frost has the “black look…that the east wind brings.” Nat’s son is sleeping, but his face is bloodied from the birds. Though Nat tries to... (full context)
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Though he does not have work that day, Nat stops by the farm to check that all is well. He tells Mrs. Trigg of... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
Nat returns home and, at the urging of his wife, clears the children’s bedroom of dead... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
...remain indoors and suggests that weather and hunger are to blame for the birds’ behavior. Nat is ecstatic to have his observations validated, and he begins boarding up the cottage. As... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Nat’s wife insists that the army should do something about the birds, though Nat believes they... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
Nat walks partway to the beach to find that the tide has turned and that the... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
Mr. Trigg returns and makes light of Nat’s fear, insisting it is a waste of time to board up his house and offering... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Nat’s wife dresses his wounds and wonders why the army is not involved. Nat says it... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Nat tells his family that they are “snug and tight, like an air-raid shelter.” He begins... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Nat helps with supper, whistling and singing all the time in order to distract his family.... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Nat thinks about what next steps the military will take, and takes comfort in the belief... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
The bird attacks finally quiet, causing Nat to realize that they are linked to the rise and fall of the tide. Reasoning... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Nat returns to bed, only to realize he has forgotten to light a fire to keep... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Nat thinks that he will soon need to get more fuel for the fire. As the... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
The incessant tapping of the birds resumes and Nat realizes that birds have broken into the bedrooms upstairs. He barricades the door, careful to... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
At the next lull in battle, Nat and his family go to the Triggs’ farm to get much-needed food and supplies. There,... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
With no time to mourn, Nat gathers what he can over the course of three trips and loads everything into his... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Nat begins to unload his new supplies, cursing “the inefficiency of the authorities” as he does... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
...to the radio, which continues to play only static, even on foreign stations. This leads Nat to suggest the attacks are happening across Europe. Nat’s wife then pours “out a plateful... (full context)
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Nat muses about organizing the new supplies and subsequent steps he will take to fortify the... (full context)