The Birds, a short horror story written by Daphne du Maurier, which is based on the idea of birds, peaceful creatures, suddenly turning against humans. The main character, Nat Hocken, through who we see the whole story, which is set on a peninsula in England on 1952 shortly after the Second World War, is a war veteran and throughout the plot gets attacked several times, with confrontations intensifying each time. With these attacks the author gradually builds up suspense until it is highly suggested a total destruction is inevitable. Towards the end of the story the imagery, diction and sentence structure help the writer convey to its readers the effects that are created through the story and augment suspense, which are the sense of isolation and helplessness of the characters.
The passage is set shortly after Nat discovers that all his neighbours appear to be missing, which is a suggestion by the narrator that the birds killed them all, along with the pressure on Nat with only one hour left before the massive attack begins and finally the mentioning that he forgot to check the kitchen’s chimney. Interestingly, the author opts to let the reader know when to expect the attack of the birds and the weak spot on the house where the birds can come through, instead of making it a mystery, like any other horror story. These choices are made possibly to create even more suspense on the readers and leave no doubt to the readers that this will happen inevitably. The structure or order of the passage’s events reveal to the reader key points to deduce that the remaining characters will certainly die, focusing rather on how this will occur, slowly which helps build suspense and a sense of helplessness from the readers towards the characters.
The passage commences with a sense of hope, Nat apparently sees “…something grey and white…” the “Good old Navy” Nat reassuring himself says, however moments later realizes that in fact what he thought was his rescue is actually his nightmare, “ the massed flocks…rose…upwards in the sky.” These first lines in the passage suggest to the reader that any apparently good news that might come across will finally be revealed to be the contrary. The imagery and sentence structure make Nat feel defenceless against what seems to be an immense flock of birds, since it was compared to a fleet of ships.
The plans Nat has of repairing and enhancing the improvised protection around the house with the help of his family and organize everything after eating seems to be a very planned approach to what another man would be completely paranoiac, almost as if these activities tried to portray a normal day. Furthermore, Nat has foreseen when the attacks will be, every seven hours, also when the tide will ebb, every six hours, and even which birds will attack each part of the house. His wife also seems too calm, caring too much about her son’s manners a few hours before the birds’ attack. The juxtaposition of the atmosphere on the outside and the inside is effective, since it creates the effect of the main characters being in a different situation, the suspense grows since it is not common for readers to see characters act this way when they know they will eventually die. Nat and his wife obviously know that anything they do will result in their death one way or another, they are trying to distract from their ultimate death, a sense of being powerless against these mighty creatures is evident.
The sense of isolation to the world also helps with the effect on the readers to feel helplessness towards the main characters. Firstly, the Navy is not coming to help them, Nat’s biggest hope to survive was this, but instead his killers arrive. Secondly, the sense that no one else is with them, since their neighbours died, has the suggestion that the birds will have no choice but to attack them only, two and adults and two children, a sense that no one really cares about them, they are forgotten to the inevitable killing of the birds. Moreover, the lack of having the voice coming out of a radio is powerful, since the silence reigns over their home, the only sounds that they will hear will be the beaks of the birds. Finally, the last phrase Jill tells Nat is to remember that America, the USA in this case, will surely help them. However, even if the US tried to help them the sense that they are too far away leaves Nat with no answer. The imagery and sentence structure have a powerful effect on the reader, making them see that indeed, there is no hope for these characters, they will die forgotten and completely isolated.
The diction specially in the last paragraph of the novella is also effective, since the birds are described to have “millions of years of memory…in those little brains”, which personifies to a certain level the birds, they have watched humans for all these years with their “piercing eyes”, having now, as the narrator describes, the “deft precision of machines”. The diction in this extract is effective since it personifies and compares the birds with an extra-terrestrial invasion, perhaps. Having watched us for much time they suddenly attack mankind for no apparent reason with high precision. Also the way the attacks are described to start with a “tapping” and increasing in noise level creates suspense, since it is repetitive and the characters recognize the sound.
In conclusion, through descriptions and dialogue between characters a few hours before their deaths, the author creates an effect on the readers of complete isolation and helplessness towards the remaining victims of the birds, which enhances the level of suspense towards the ending of the horror story. The description of the birds is also quite effective since it compares them with superior specie, adding to the effects and final suspense. The ending is powerful enough to highly suggest that Nat is just calmingly waiting for his approaching death, even though the final scene is omitted.