The Birds


Daphne du Maurier

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Themes and Colors
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Hubris and Humility Theme Icon
The Inhumanity of War Theme Icon
Reason vs. Chaos Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Birds, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Man vs. Nature

“The Birds,” a story of great flocks of birds descending into England to attack people, presents human beings in conflict with nature itself. Du Maurier uses the story of a single, rural family—the Hockens, who are trying desperately to fend off the bird attacks—to illustrate humanity’s isolation within the natural world and humankind’s vulnerability to nature’s wrath.

While the birds are the primary force of the story’s violence, du Maurier is careful to situate the…

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Hubris and Humility

As a fable of humility, “The Birds” condemns humanity’s hubristic belief that we can control the world around us. Building on the theme of man vs. nature, Du Maurier’s tale rejects the notion of humankind as the master of nature, instead suggesting that any belief in human superiority to nature is foolish and doomed. While Nat’s response to the bird attacks is to take immediate, purposeful action, nearly every other character is stubbornly skeptical…

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The Inhumanity of War

Du Maurier’s story takes place shortly after World War II, a setting emphasized by her imagery of violence and references to fighter planes, machine guns, mustard gas, and Navy ships. Not only does the birds’ attack echo the horror of weapons of mass destruction and, specifically, the Blitz, but it also explores the toll of war on the human psyche. In “The Birds,” fending off the birds becomes analogous to engaging in war, which strips…

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Reason vs. Chaos

Du Maurier never gives any explanation for the relentless bird attacks, which is part of what makes them so chilling. Human beings pride themselves on their rational intellect—they assume that their ability to make rational inferences about the world will allow them to manage their own fates. “The Birds,” however, dismantles the notion that reason has the power to dispel chaos by presenting humans as engaged in a futile battle with irrational and relentless forces.

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