The Chrysalids is a story that deals with many different subjects. Some of the main themes in the story are dicrimination and religion. Some of the minor themes that are found throughout the story are loyalty; trust; prejudice; judgement; conformity; and superstition.
Discrimination is a huge theme in The Chrysalids. The lives of everyone in Waknuk revolve completely around judging and discriminating against anyone and anything that is even slightly varying from the “true image” of God (commonly called deviations or mutants). When a deviation is discovered, it is dealt with as soon as possible, so as not to displease God. If it is a plant of some sort, it is usually burned. If the deviation is an animal, it is usually slaughtered. If it is human, it is sterilized so it cannot reproduce and sent out into the Fringes. If that human is a baby, there is a likely chance that it will not survive, and the chances of survival for the rest of the deviations are not wonderful either. John Wyndham uses the story to teach us about the consequences of discrimination and pre-judgement. Although he uses extreme examples such as death, it shows us the reality of how our judgement and discrimintaion hurt people.
Religion is really the theme that this whole story is built around. Without it, none of the events in the story would have happened. If the people of Waknuk had not had religion, there would have been no “true image” or need to please God. Therefore, there would have been no discrimination against the deviations and mutants. Religion and beliefs were the driving forces of almost everything that the citizens of Waknuk did. John Wyndham uses this story to teach us about the ludacrisness of religion. The religion in The Chrysalids seems to be a slightly exaggerated form of Christianity. Although the examples in the book are extreme, they put religion in perspective for the reader, and make you re-think what you really believe in.
John Whyndham uses the book to teach us about the importance of trust, loyalty, and friendship. Loyalty and trust were two big componants of “The Chrysalids”. It takes a lot of loyalty and trust to put your life in the hands of another person, and to in turn, have them entrust their lives and their secrets with you. David and the eight other children did exactly that when they learned about their special talent or “mutation”. They all knew that things would be very bad if anyone else ever found out their secret. They would have tests done on them, be banished, sterilized, possibly even killed. Therefore, they had to put their complete trust in one another, and stay loyal to eachother. David also entrusted their secret to Uncle Axel. There were other parts of the story in which trust and loyalty played a main role. Sophie saved David’s life in the Fringes, after she hadn’t seen him in over six years. Then, David had to trust her to go find Rosalind and Petra. They all had to put their complete faith in the “Seaworld Lady” to come save them from everyone in the Fringes and Waknuk who was hunting for them. Over all, trust and loyalty were huge themes in The Chrysalids.If they hadn’t all been loyal and trusted eachtoher, none of them would have survived. It is the same in life. We have to trust one another, and stay loyal to eachother if we want to survive.
Superstition and Conformity:
Much of “The Chrysalids” revolves around conformity, superstition, and their consequences. The people of Waknuk are all extremely conformist. They live, and have been raised in a community where there is no room for diversity, individuality or variation. They believe the same things, live the same way, and anyone or anything different from the rest of them, and varying from their idea of “the true image” as God would have it is destroyed. Plants are burned, animals are slaughtered, and human deviations are banished to the Fringes where they are out of sight, cannot reproduce, and will either die or live a miserable life. The main reason that the citizens of Waknuk desire such sameness and conformity is because of their superstitious and religious beleifs. They believe that God sent tribulations to “The Old People”, and that was why their society was destroyed. Because they don’t want the same thing to happen to their society, the people of “The New World” and of Waknuk believe that they must keep the gene pool free of mutations and deviations, so that everyone is made in the “true image” of God. Those who are not in the “true image”, and those who do not do everything within their capability to keep society true to how God created and desired it are shaming God, and will force him to send tribulations to the town as punishment. The extreme need of the citizens of Waknuk to conform and follow their cultural superstitions drives them to do crazy things that are detrimental to their community, such as burn crops, kill livestock, and send away or kill their friends and family. Without this extreme desire to rid themselves and their community of differences, and to please God and avoid his wrath and punishment, the citizens of Waknuk could probably live fairly normal lives. They would have more food, more livestock, and probably more money from selling anything that they had left over. The Chrysalids demonstrates how diversity can be a good thing, and how dangerous conformity and societal superstitions can be.
In the Chrysalids the people of Waknuk are prejudice against anyone who does not live up to their beliefs of a “true image.” They discriminate against anyone who looks or acts differently than they do. For example there are signs all over David’s house saying things like “WATCH FOR THOU MUTANT,” and on the other hand Sophie has only one extra toe on each foot and she had to be sent away to the Fringes for being different. Also, Aunt Harriott’s baby has the smallest little mark on her but she is still labeled as a deviation. Similarly, there is a lot of prejudice in present day society. People still discriminate against other races and religions. It is unbelievable that this is still happening in society. Just because someone has a different skin tone than oneself, or speaks a different language or has different religious beliefs does not give one the right to put that other person down or treat them with any less respect. Everyone is equal.
The people of Waknuk do not let people be who they are, which shows intolerance. They believe everyone has to be the same and look very similar.
If people are slightly different in any way they get sent away to this place called the “Fringes,” also known as the Badlands.
Intolerance does not really occur to such an extreme in present day society. In the 1940’s, this intolerance was present in Germany. If one were Jewish, or a Gypsy or not of “pure German decent,” one would be arrested and sent to concentration camps to ones death by starvation, forced labor, torture or poisoning. Jews were forced to wear stars of David or “J’s” to indicate their religious backgrounds.
In The Chrysalids, Waknuks society does not know anything about any of the other “groups,” who live in other parts of their lands, which shows ignorance. Waknuk’s society think that those groups are different from them and so they frown upon those differences. Ironically, the other groups speak of the people of Waknuk in exactly the same way. Those other “groups” from different places think that Waknuk’s society is strange and weird.
Waknuk’s society does not even make an attempt to gather more knowledge about those other groups. One could argue that we have a lot of ignorance in present day society. Some people critically judge homeless people by their dress and behavior, without talking to them to find out why they live on the street. People judge them by their appearance and they just see them as lazy and worthless.
As in The Chrysalids, prejudice, ignorance and intolerance are present in our own society. It is impossible to get away from it. One can avoid being prejudice, intolerant and ignorant but it is still going to occur all around oneself. The question himself must ask is can they personally make a difference to the amount of prejudice, intolerance and ignorance there is today by ones behavior. People should just accept other people for who they are and not something someone wants them to be.