The Chrysalids

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Woman from Zealand Character Analysis

The woman from Zealand (which David and Rosalind call “Sealand”) discovers the group in Wanuk when she hears Petra’s thoughts. In Zealand, everyone can communicate through thought images, but Petra has the largest known range of any telepath, so the Zealander woman organizes a ship to come and rescue Petra, Rosalind, and David. The woman believes strongly in the power of communal thought and a cyclical version of history in which a lower class overthrows a higher class, only to be overthrown by another class. These beliefs are very similar to those held in the real world by Marxists. The woman shows no remorse in killing an entire battlefield of people in order to save Petra, Rosalind, and David because she feels that the people who died are of an inferior species.

Woman from Zealand Quotes in The Chrysalids

The The Chrysalids quotes below are all either spoken by Woman from Zealand or refer to Woman from Zealand. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Words Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the NYRB Classics edition of The Chrysalids published in 2008.
Chapter 16 Quotes

“Your work is to survive. Neither his kind, nor his kind of thinking will survive long. They are the crown of creation, they are ambition fulfilled—they have nowhere more to go. But life is change, that is how it differs from the rocks, change is its very nature. Who, then, were the recent lords of creation, that they should expect to remain unchanged?”

Related Characters: Woman from Zealand (speaker), David Strorm, Joseph Strorm
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the mysterious woman from Zealand has come to rescue the psychics, including David and Petra. David is dismayed when he learns that his father is about to killed in the Zealanders' coming invasion of Wanuk. When David expresses his dismay, the woman of Zealand tries to console him by saying, much like the Fringes man did, that life is change, and to resist change is to be delusional. It is inevitable, then, that David’s father will die anyway, and that David would have to totally "break free" from his father at some point—thus, there’s no point in David being upset about his father’s passing.

The woman from Zealand's advice is rather callous, since she's essentially telling David to forget about his own father for another version of the "greater good." Joseph isn't a remotely likable or sympathetic character, and yet the woman from Zealand's indifference to his death seems a far cry from the behavior of a supposedly more "enlightened" being. The Chrysalids resists easy moralizing--just because the woman from Zealand seems to be working on David's side doesn't mean we have to agree with her philosophy. In fact, it's suggested that David has just left one racist, fundamentalist society for another one.

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“The Old People brought down Tribulation, and were broken into fragments by it. Your father and his kind are a part of those fragments. They have become history without being aware of it. They are determined still that there is a final form to defend: soon they will attain the stability they strive for, in the only form it is granted—a place among the fossils.”

Related Characters: Woman from Zealand (speaker), David Strorm, Joseph Strorm, Old People
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the woman from Zealand continues to give David her interpretation of history. She argues that humans are always a part of history, whether they like it or not, and the only way to achieve real "purity" or stasis is through death. In this way she justifies the murder of the Wanukians, because they always wanted to become "fossils" anyway. In essence, the Woman of Zealand seems to be offering David another strict, deterministic model of the universe—the opposite and yet the equal of the one on which David was raised. Where the Wanukians worship stability in the sense of imitating the past, the woman of Zealand worships an ideal of progress, one that feels no qualms about eliminating anything that might hold it back.

Chapter 17 Quotes

“Sometime there will come a day when we ourselves shall have to give place to a new thing. Very certainly we shall struggle against the inevitable just as these remnants of the Old People do. We shall try with all our strength to grind it back into the earth from which it is emerging, for treachery to one’s own species must always seem a crime. We shall force it to prove itself, and when it does, we shall go; as, by the same process, these are going.”

Related Characters: Woman from Zealand (speaker), Old People
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

In this surprising passage, the woman from Zealand reveals her own powerlessness even as she asserts her society's triumph. While she supports her society's ideas about history, she acknowledges that at some point in the future, the Zealanders will probably act like the Wanukians and try to reverse the inevitable "flow" of the universe, becoming a tyrannical, backwards regime that resists change and evolution. The idea here is that all tyrannies consists of authorities trying to undo the inevitable. For example, the tyrants of Wanuk try to undo the inevitable genetic diversity of the human species by banishing so-called mutants. By the same token, the woman from Zealand argues, her own civilization will one day (presumably when it starts to lose power or authority) become harsh and repressive, and then it will be destroyed by the next generation of "New People."

The Woman from Zealand assumes, as an unspoken premise of her argument, that existence is a constant process of evolution and decay. At the same time, she doesn't really seem to accept the real-world implications of her beliefs, as she is currently using them to justify mass murder. She also admits that right now, the Zealanders are still on the rise--it will be a long time before they become like the Wanukians. (And thus, presumably, she herself is immune from the harsher implications of her philosophy.)

“The essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution: and we are part of it.”

Related Characters: Woman from Zealand (speaker)
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

The woman from Zealand continues to explain her society's peculiar view of life. Where the people of Wanuk believed that an idealized version of man was the center of the universe, the woman from Zealand seems to believe that change itself is the center—albeit an unstable center. She takes a dialectical view of history, arguing that everything in history is part of a massive, larger-than-life cycle of change and evolution. (Note that the ideas expressed in the passage reflect some of the tenets of Marxism, the governing ideology of the Soviet Union at the time of Wyndham's writing.)

The novel ends before we’re exposed to many details of the woman from Zealand’s culture—thus, we’re left to guess how admirable her civilization ultimately is. It’s possible that the novel intends for us to see the woman from Zealand as an angelic figure, rescuing David from Wanuk. It’s also possible (and more subversive) to imagine that the woman from Zealand merely rescues David from one corrupt regime and places him in another. The Wanukians killed people for the "greater good" of normalcy and religion, while the Zealanders kill people for the "greater good" of evolution and progress.

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Woman from Zealand Character Timeline in The Chrysalids

The timeline below shows where the character Woman from Zealand appears in The Chrysalids. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12
Words Theme Icon
Ways of Knowing Theme Icon
Time and Progress Theme Icon
Real World Allegory Theme Icon
A woman from far away asks Petra for her name and location. The person responds with her... (full context)
Chapter 13
Ways of Knowing Theme Icon
Time and Progress Theme Icon
Racism and Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
...runs away, while Rosalind, David, and Petra venture into the Wild Country. As they ride, the woman from Zealand contacts Petra, who translates her thoughts to the rest of the group. The... (full context)
Words Theme Icon
Ways of Knowing Theme Icon
Time and Progress Theme Icon
Racism and Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
Real World Allegory Theme Icon
While Rosalind and David sleep, Petra talks to the woman from Zealand and learns that almost everyone there can think-together. The woman tells Petra that... (full context)
Chapter 14
Words Theme Icon
Ways of Knowing Theme Icon
Time and Progress Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Racism and Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
Real World Allegory Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Petra gets in touch with the woman from Zealand. The woman is finally close enough for Rosalind and David to be able... (full context)
Words Theme Icon
Time and Progress Theme Icon
Real World Allegory Theme Icon
The woman ’s pride and disrespectful attitude toward God and the Old People make David uncomfortable. Rosalind... (full context)
Ways of Knowing Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
The woman from Zealand ceases communicating, and Rosalind, David, Petra, and the great-horses on which they are riding stop.... (full context)
Chapter 16
Ways of Knowing Theme Icon
Racism and Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
The next morning, Michael tells David that the Wanukians are getting ready to attack, and the woman from Zealand promises she will arrive within nine hours. She tells the group that she... (full context)
Ways of Knowing Theme Icon
Time and Progress Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Racism and Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
...David. He does not know whether to try to kill or forgive his father, but the woman from Zealand interrupts and tells him that keeping Petra safe should be his utmost priority.... (full context)
Time and Progress Theme Icon
A strange noise fills the cave and the woman from Zealand announces that they are almost there. A “fish-shaped craft” like those in David’s... (full context)
Chapter 17
Ways of Knowing Theme Icon
Time and Progress Theme Icon
Racism and Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
...the cave and Rosalind, David, and Petra are covered in them. Following the instructions of the woman , they lie as still as possible. The Zealanders’ machine lands and the woman frees... (full context)
Words Theme Icon
Real World Allegory Theme Icon
The woman looks at Petra with an expression of awe, and the two communicate on a level... (full context)
Ways of Knowing Theme Icon
Time and Progress Theme Icon
Morality Theme Icon
Racism and Fear of the Unknown Theme Icon
Michael wants to return to Wanuk to retrieve Rachel before they go, but the woman says that her machine does not have enough fuel to carry any extra weight. In... (full context)
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The Zealander woman goes on to explain that the people of the Fringes are “condemned” not by anything... (full context)
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Rosalind, David, and Petra board the machine with the woman and go with her to Zealand. There, David finds the city of his dreams. The... (full context)