Barriers That Destroy: How Social Conformity Affects Humans In The Chrysalids

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

In a dystopian future, the game of survival is based on the limits and abilities of humans, but the barriers are what destroy them. “The Chrysalids” by John Wyndham explores the strict social conformity in this society. These accounts can be seen with the conflict against the Waknuk and Fringe people, the circumstances of Aunt Harriet and the social standards of the Sealand people. Social conformity often leads to the persecution and destruction of fellow humans.

The beginning of the novel introduces David’s well-managed society. It is proven that the only reason their society functions the way it does is because they are attempting to follow the ways of the Old People. Their knowledge comes from the two surviving books: The Bible and Repentances. However, this also includes turning away deviations (people or things that do not attribute to the scriptures). The Strorm family are ambitious believers in the scriptures in which they strictly implement into their daily lives. They also influence the rest of their society to believe as heavily into their religion, prosecuting those who do not follow and sending them into the Badlands. Joseph is very quick to condemn which relates to the destruction and persecution of other humans. He even does this to his own family. Chapter 4 reveals a connection that Joseph had an older brother who is sent away for being a deviation. They encounter each other again; “He stood some eighteen inches taller than anyone else, but not because he was a big man. If his legs had been right, he would have stood no taller than my father’s five-feet-ten; but they were not: they were monstrously long and thin, and his arms were long and thin, too. It made him look half-man, half spider”. Even though the reason is not clear, it can be seen why Joseph has his intense beliefs. Furthermore, the Fringe people are great examples of the persecution and destruction of social conformity because they are cast away by the beliefs of their people. It takes into effect how toxic the beliefs are, to even have own family and relatives get sent to the Badlands for not fitting in. Without the toxic social beliefs, it is possible to avoid the need for constant conflict and war. In Chapter 17, the people of Waknuk and the people of the Fringes start a war where the Fringe people try to protect the land they call home; “The sound of more firing came from the same direction as before. A clamour and shouting broke out. A few spent arrows dropped into the left hand end of the clearing. Some men came running back out of the trees” (Wyndham 189). The war leads to great reasoning as to why social conformity is a vivid explanation for the destruction and persecution of humans. In addition, one of the people that are from both parties that can be taken into example is David. David is born into the Strorm family where he is strictly taught to follow his religion. His life is put under threat when he finds out he has abilities that go against his father’s teachings. Their relationship as father and son gets destroyed because he loses trust but gains fear of his father. A circumstance unfolds which Joseph aggressively accused his own son of blasphemy: “I was aware that the rest had stopped gaping at me, and were now looking apprehensively at my father. His expression was grim. ‘You – my own son – were calling upon the Devil to give you another hand!’ he accused me” directly causing an imbalance of faith in their relationship.

Therefore, the discrimination against the deviations and Waknuk people are causes of the strict social conformity their religion inflicts and Joseph promotes. It can be seen that this conformity can lead to the destruction of human relationships as well. Given the state of the broken relationships, Joseph has developed with his brother Gordon and his son David. This leads to the fact that these conformities show no limits to blood relations.

In addition to bloodlines, Aunt Harriet’s forgotten tale is told. She is a prime example of the personal effects the social conformities in her society have. Chapter 7 introduces Aunt Harriet. Aunt Harriet comes to the Strorm family and begs for their help to hide her baby which is a deviation. Due to the laws of Waknuk, she knows that her baby’s life is in danger and finds it necessary to beg for help. The novel demonstrates from the perspective of Aunt Harriet that no mother should have to fear for her baby’s life solely because the baby has a deviation no one could control. Her own brother in law refuses to help her because he believes intensely in their laws. In her state of defeat, she starts praying for the ruined society by saying, “ ‘I shall pray God to send charity into 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 of the body. . . . And I shall pray Him, too, that the hearts of the self-righteous may be broken….” (Wyndham 72). This illustrates the negative impact the Waknuk people continuously choose. She feels helpless because not even her own family was able to help her, solely because the laws state it is a sin. The religious hypocrisy shows Aunt Harriet how survival would not come easy for her and her child and simply gives up. Furthermore, Aunt Harriet, finding no way out of this social conformity, kills herself (the book implies that she commits suicide with the child). A couple months after her death, no one discusses any details about her death or disappearance of the child. Admittedly, within the saddening tale of Aunt Harriet, it is evident how strict religious social conformity is in their society. It leads to the death of a child and a mother at the hands of Joseph, a religious leader. Their social conformity blinds them of the important and moral things they should be doing.

A little while after, a new society interacts with the Chrysalids, the Sealanders. The Sealand woman starts to contact Petra in Chapter 12. As the character of the Sealand woman develops, in later chapters, it is realized that her mission is to find Petra, as Petra is seen as the one with the strongest abilities. However, the Sealand woman does not believe in helping the people of Waknuk because they were seen as “savages” and an “inadequate species” , causing a social barrier between the two societies. Due to this social barrier, the Sealand woman kills off the population of Fringe and Waknuk people because the teachings of the Sealanders revolve on the reasoning that the people of Waknuk are unable to evolve as a species and are only weighing down evolution. The Sealand woman says, “’ The essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution: and we are part of it” (Wyndham 199). Their social conformity fuels this genocide which is based on the science of evolution. Although not morally correct. The line of difference between religious and scientific social conformity is not vast. In most cases of discrimination and persecution, they are both morally wrong. The only real difference is their belief system. Generally, it can be seen how negative of an impact social conformity causes and is evidently seen in many aspects of this book. No matter what beliefs they had, it shows both the differences and similarities.

Conformity is a reason for the persecution and destruction of others in this society. If we refer to Gordon, Aunt Harriet, Joseph and David, strict social conformity is a reason for destroying relationships. Conflicts arise between the Waknuk and Fringe people because of the persecution of deviations. Aunt Harriet could not handle the pressure and circumstances of the conformities and as a result, she kills herself. Therefore the persecution of one party often leads to conflict and conflict leads to destruction.

Works Cited

  • Wyndham, John. The Chrysalids. Penguin Books, Toronto, 1995. 


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