“I shall pray to God to send charity to this hideous world, and sympathy for the weak, and love for the unhappy and unfortunate. I shall ask Him if it is indeed His will that a child should suffer and its soul be damned for a little blemish on the body….” ? John Wyndham, The Chrysalids. The tragic story of The Chrysalids is a novel representing the despair of today’s society through racism, pollution, and gender inequality.
Throughout the story, we are discouraged by the way the people treat each other based on physical and mental differences. Before the story begins, the people of Waknuk’s society originated from a nuclear war in which most of the world’s population was destroyed. Those who were left began to segrate. Waknuk was established by Elias Strorm who brought with him the Bible and the Nicholsons Repentance which became the doctrines of good and evil and thus determined who was suitable to be in society or to be exiled to the fringes, a barren land of despair. This is reflective of our society today and man’s ongoing struggle with himself related to differences, such as race. Many of the differences that people focus on in the Chrysalids and in today’s society physical and mental differences. When we believe that all members of a group of people who possess similar characteristics, make that group either superior or inferior , this is racism and it brings out the hateful side of humans. The Chrysalids is a story that has much to do with this despicable, but commonly seen nature of humans. “And God created man in his own image. And God decreed that man should have one body, one head, two arms and two legs; that each arm be jointed in two places and end in one hand; that each hand should have four fingers and one thumb; that each finger should bear a flat finger-nail…” and so on went the affirmation that all heard every Sunday at church. Any difference from this was a blasphemy before God who had fashioned man in his own image and must be dealt with immediately before the evil could spread. People with any deviation were called Blasphemes. David, the main character in the Chrysalids, soon learned to what extent his society would go in these cases. The Blasphemes would be sent into the fringes, a desolate place where everything was deviant and nothing was normal. David’s best friend Sophie was sent to the fringes, she had just one extra toe. David later fled to the fringes because his own deviation (thought shape) was revealed as well. As the racism in the novel the Chrysalids causes despair to the Blasphemes, continued racism in today society causes ongoing destruction and despair in our world.
For the duration of the novel, pollution in the Wuknuks society is portrayed through the actions of the “old people”, specifically in having used nuclear warfare and causing the effects of “tribulation” . Waknuks vision of the old people was that tribulation was sent by God to mankind for some kind of sin against God or creation itself. In reality, it was actually mankind partaking in a nuclear warfare that laid waste to their world. This correlates to today and our society, where we are polluting our world but often blame other, countries, industry and people. When in reality everyone of us has an ecological footprint to be responsible for. From littering and dumping, emissions, industry, lack of regulations , polluting our rivers and lakes, we’re damaging our world beyond repair. Eventually, we won’t be able to revert it back to the green world it once was. The issue with Waknuk is that they want to remain stagnant and not evolve , they want to stay the same to avoid going back to the “old ways” instead of looking at adapting and Cleaning up the destruction . Part of this stagnated mind set came from the fact that they viewed the destruction “pollution” as an act of God and not something that they could correct by adapting to the changes. David makes this clear to us when he says “Most of the numerous precepts, arguments, and examples in Ethics were condensed for us into this: the duty and purpose of man in this world are to fight unceasingly against the evils that Tribulation loosed upon it.”-John Wyndham, The Chrysalids. In today’s society, we haven’t faced the fact that, if we don’t change our ways quickly, we will not be able to reverse the effects of pollution that we have caused. In the novel the chrysalids The Waknuks resistance to adapting and evolving, held them in a state of despair as they weren’t able to improve and progress, similar to our society with our pollution challenges.
Another sign of despair in the Chrysalids is gender inequality. Even though women play a key role in Waknuk, they are not treated as equals compared to men.