Many times in the book, characters help each other out in order to achieve a mutual goal. We see David help out Sophie when she gets her foot stuck. We also see Uncle Axel help out David when David confides in him about his abilities. The struggles that the characters go through are often lessened by their relationships with friends. David helps Petra when she is in danger and he also helps her to hone her telepathic abilities. One the greatest acts of friendship is when Michael stays behind to be with Rachel and thus loses the opportunity to leave Waknuk. Harsh times in the novel are often endured through friendship, and friendship serves as a strong support for the characters when they are going through challenges.
Intolerance is among the biggest themes in the Chrysalids. So many of the characters are unable to accept each other’s views and beliefs. For example, Joseph Strorm would destroy all sorts of "deviants" because he feels they are demons not created by God—he is even willing to turn against his own children. Also, the Sealand lady, despite being a lot more respectable than Joseph, looks down on people who are not telepaths. She Others them by labeling them as "inferior." Lastly, the Fringes believe the Waknuk people are arrogant, and are intolerant of anybody who is "normal." Every group in the Chrysalids has reasoning about why they are better than another group, thereby creating intolerance and their own definition of otherness.
David and the group of telepaths are all isolated from the Waknuk society because of their deviant qualities. Their society sees their ability as a threat and as a deviation from the norm, and eventually, when the society finds out, it forces them to leave. Isolation is related to intolerance because intolerance leads to persecution and isolation of characters who do not fit the norm. For example, Sophie is isolated from other children because she has 6 toes, and she has to be kept secret from the Waknuk society because they would exile her if she were found out. Every person with a genetic mutation is considered an outcast in Waknuk society.
The Tribulation caused such a powerful destruction of the earth that it took hundreds of years for societies to redevelop. Waknuk demonstrates a purposeful evolution back to the Norm in that it used certain processes to purify unwanted genetic mutation in their crops and in their bloodlines. The Wild Country has thus been able to become farmed land. The regrowth and reclaiming of the damaged lands has also been reported outside of Waknuk, by the explorer Marther, who stated, “just as Wild Country becomes tractable, and Badlands country slowly gives way to habitable Fringes country, so, it would seem, are the Blacklands contracting within the Badlands” (61). In the other direction, The Sealand people, or New People, believe they are evolving to become a newer, better species of human, and because of their superiority, they need to kill or fight all those who are not evolving to be able to think together. The Sealand woman states, “The essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution; we are part of it” (196).
Deviations in David’s society are closely watched because they are considered the manifestation of the Devil in humans, plants, and animals. However, there is also much dispute over which Deviations require Purification, and which can be left as they are. While the definition of man and woman is contained in the Repentances, and the Government of Rigo provides guidelines on recognized species of plants and animals, there is still much dispute due to fear and intolerance surrounding any abnormality. The fear is present due to the heavy puritanical influence of the Waknuk society, and the strongly worded warnings from Repentances, such as “The Devil is the Father of Deviation” (18). The people thus feel that they have to vigilant in order to catch any signs of evil. In the words of the Inspector, “The Devil sends Deviations among us to weaken us and tempt us away from Purity. Sometimes he is clever enough to make a near-perfect imitation, so we have to always be on the look-out for the mistake he has made” (55).
The basis of the conflict of the novel is Waknuk’s evangelical and puritanical position on the True Image of man, as defined by their religious text Nicholson’s Repentances. The entire Waknuk society originated and grew based on these beliefs, and their community is organized around these teachings. The schooling and the government are strongly influenced by the religion. David is also exposed in a secondhand way to the beliefs of the peoples of other lands, who believe that their form of Deviation is the True Image of the Old People, as interpreted by Uncle Axel. Later in the novel, two other points of view are shown. One is the religion of the Fringes people, in which they believe that Tribulation was meant to change things, to give people a fresh start, with new species and new forms of humans. The other is the Sealand philosophy, in which they believe that superior genetic mutations, such as the ability to think together telepathically, are meant to to inherit the earth.
The idea of justice is implied in the cause of the disaster that was Tribulation: justice, religion claims, was served through Tribulation to the people who were sinning. Similarly, the inspector and the magistrate (Joseph Strorm) act to serve justice to the impure people, animals, and land that occur in Waknuk. They believe justice must be served to that which is mutant. Joseph Strorm even goes so far as to serve justice himself when he believes the Dakers’ cat is an abomination, i.e. not of a recognized breed. The Sealand people also have a very harsh viewpoint on justice, stating that they need to aggressively protect their own species against others, or else risk annihilation. Thus, for the Sealanders, because their New People are superior, they need to preserve their kind; in order to do so, the inferior or primitive people need to be destroyed.
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
The idea of a celestial and infinite force brings out a certain fear and respect out of humans, and this is translated into honouring the spirit and conceiving it as the virtuous. As mortal beings, we often feel helpless from the fates that we believe direct our paths, and during difficult situations, turn to an intangible and superior power. Applying the concept of religion for power distorts the spiritual connection as well as our grasp of the divine and good. When an aspect of religion is misrepresented by authorities, unwavering reverence can become a weakness and turn into ignorance. The theme of using faith as a source of control is found in history, literature, and more specifically, in John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids.
Religion has been always been a part of our history as a foundation for both culture and security. It is engrained in our knowledge that a god portrays the good and this attitude makes religion a universal answer that in a way is untouchable. For example, in the Middle Ages when the feudal system was developed, God was the highest in the hierarchy and life was so because it was what He intended it to be. When the Black Plague appeared, it was religion that would save them from the baffling spread of the evil disease. In the community of Waknuk, where a massive disaster had destroyed all history and their surrounding world was brimming with the alien and questionable, fear caused the people to resort to faith as it was the sole substance within their grasp. In the book Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, the primitive civilization too, like Waknuk, had lost much past knowledge with the exception of a song and a robe. These were showcased in a spiritual gathering that explained the people’s role in the world. In these cases, religion builds a lost culture and provides a comforting reason for the mysterious and unexplainable. Such reliance magnifies change and control that can be achieved when officials manipulate a spiritual subject.
Religion when used to create an inflexible environment leads to isolation. In a society where it is imperative to follow a certain belief, such as Waknuk, the whole population thinks in one perspective. The uniformity in opinion in essence results in thought control and also expels the possibility of accepting difference and change.
In Richard Adams’ book, Watership Down, we meet a warren of rabbits that were routinely fed and trapped by a nearby farmer. Their fear caused them to avoid the obvious and retreat into a state of denial and worship. All rabbits born in this warren were raised with a philosophy of defeated reverence to accept their deaths, and any strayed thinkers were ignored or extinguished. The statement “Beware the mutant” was a variation of a passage in the Bible but was declared so forcefully that it persuaded the Waknukians to believe it was the good. In this situation, religion was used as an outlet to prove the credibility of the mutated statement by playing on the people’s trust and loyalty. Only one way of thinking creates a static society that rejects change and the unfamiliar. A community that believes in only one judgment is easier to manage and the Holy Word once again provides a reason for obedience.
Consequently, by controlling mindsets it is possible to control actions of a population and isolation causes insecurity towards anything that is not understood. Waknuk became a society that was absolutely intolerable towards the individual and unique; the culture revolved around beliefs such as “The Devil is the Father of Deviation” and this mentality transfers to actions such as the killing of the Dakers’ tailless cat. David’s ability to generate thought shapes was incomparable to the usual physical deformations that were easily spotted. A combination of both the undeniable understanding that “Blessed is the norm” and fear of the unordinary caused a panic that revealed the isolation of such a traditional and strict society.
In conclusion, religion protects the mind from the scary and bewildering, but in a cycle its manipulation indirectly causes more fear towards the unknown. Really it is mankind’s hunger for the good and power that allows religion to be used as a tool of control.
Throwback Thursday essay written on January 10, 2011.
Thanks for reading,
Filed under Academia, Poems, Essays, and Things
Tagged as assignment, belief, Books, control, effects, essay, faith, John Wyndham, literature, religion, school, society, The Chrysalids