Depiction Of An Obsession With The “Norm” In The Chrysalids By John Wyndham
The Chrysalids is a science fiction novel, created by John Wyndham, that showcases themes such as religious beliefs, fear of authority, and punishment; yet it also deals with how obsession with the “norm” can create prejudice and discrimination. Many characters that don’t follow the “true image” of God, suffer and have to go through the animosity from the people of Waknuk. Wyndham illustrates that it can create prejudice and discrimination for everyone by including in his novel that anyone found with deformities will be sent to the Fringes, by showing that the people of Waknuk don’t even consider blasphemies as humans, and deserve harsh punishment, and that this obsession forces them to think that everyone who doesn’t comply or is a devil or associated with the devil.
Firstly, to indicate the obsession in Waknuk, anyone found with deformities will be sent to the Fringes if caught. The people of Waknuk strongly follow the “Definition of Man” in the Repentances, which is that, “each leg shall be jointed twice and have one foot, and each foot five toes, and each toe shall end with a flat nail…”. Which shows that whoever this definition doesn’t apply to, shall be exiled from the society of Waknuk. An example of this would be Gordon Strorm, also known as Joseph Strorm’s brother and spider-man, as he was sent to the Fringes because of his limbs being too long and skinny. He didn’t match what the “true image” of God was, therefore he was banished to the outside of Waknuk just because he didn’t look or match the “norm”.
Secondly, Wyndham demonstrates this by showing that the people of Waknuk do not even consider blasphemies as humans. Shockingly, even babies are not considered humans unless they have been passed by the Inspector. An example of this in the novel, would be when Aunt Harriet begs her sister, David’s mother, to borrow her newborn baby for a day so that she can pass the inspection. It has been Aunt Harriet’s third baby with a fault, and she does not want to have to deal with the consequences, like her own husband leaving her. “This is the third time. They’ll take my baby again like they took the others… Henry will turn me out, I think. He’ll find another wife, who can give him proper children. There’ll be nothing – nothing in the world for me – nothing.” David’s mother is appalled that her own sister would ask for such a favour, and since she is immensely religious, she does not do it and sends her own sibling off. Showing that she has no sympathy for her child, as it’s not a baby, but a monster according to her. “…You have the effrontery to bring your monster into my house, and tell me that it’s nothing much.”
Thirdly, the obsession with the ‘norm’ forces them to think that everyone who doesn’t comply is sent by or associated with the devil. A specific example of this is Sophie Wender versus the people of Waknuk. She is a young girl in The Chrysalids, and physically, she has a deviation separating her from the ‘norm,” which is that she has 6 toes. She isn’t considered a “human” and her family and her know it themselves; which is why she tries to hide her foot in the first chapter from David when she gets it stuck. According to Sophie’s mother, (talking about Sophie’s sixth toe,) “If anyone were to find out, they’d — they’d be terribly unkind to her.” which represents that they are aware that Sophie is not accepted, as she does not follow the “true image” of God, and people would consider her a devil sent from Hell. Another example of this would be when David blurts out that if only he had a third hand, he could take care of his wound more easily, and his father catches him mentioning that: “I could have managed it all right by myself if I’d had another hand.” David states. After this, David’s father responds by accusing that he was calling upon the Devil to give him another hand. He then sends David to go to his room and pray for forgiveness from God “that he does not deserve”.
In conclusion, this is how Wyndham illustrates in The Chrysalids that the obsession with the ‘norm’, by anyone found with deformities will be sent to the Fringes, that it forces them to think that everyone who doesn’t comply is a devil themselves, or is associated with the devil, and by showing that the people of Waknuk don’t consider blasphemies as humans.
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