Wyndham wrote The Chrysalids in the 1950s, after the atrocities of World War II and in the midst of the Cold War, and the ideologies espoused by the Wanukians and the Zealanders are similar to those of real-world groups at that time. The Wanukian’s insistence on racial purity is similar to that of the Nazis, while the decision to segregate Blasphemies into a specific area is reminiscent of both Nazi concentration camps and the racially-driven segregation occurring in the American South at the time. Indeed, like the sterilization of Blasphemies by the Wanukians, the disenfranchisement of African Americans in the South was largely based on the physical appearance of those who were attacked. David and the others with the ability to think-together, however, are persecuted for their thoughts and beliefs—an oppression similar to that suffered by the Jews during the Holocaust. Wyndham’s novel is a clear denunciation of this kind of persecution; the mindset it cultivates leads the Wanukians to try to kill the best and kindest members of their society.
While The Chrysalids clearly condemns the atrocities of the past, it also provides a warning for the future. Although the Zealanders may not actively seek out people to kill and do not discriminate against people based on their physical appearance, they show no remorse in killing a large group of people with “inferior” abilities in order to promote their own world view. The beliefs of the Zealanders can be read as an allegory for Soviet ideologies. For example, their promotion of think-together and belief that history is a series of struggles in which one group overthrows another have strongly Marxist undertones. At the same time, within the context of the Cold War, one could also interpret the Zealanders as a stand-in for the United States, which was ready to bomb the Soviet Union in order to promote democratic ideals.
Ultimately, The Chrysalids warns against the blind espousal of any rigid belief, no matter how innocent it might seem. The novel is a testament to the importance of thinking critically and independently and evaluating ones own beliefs and actions, rather than thoughtlessly conforming to the norm.
Real World Allegory ThemeTracker
Real World Allegory Quotes in The Chrysalids
“Dreams were funny things and there was no accounting for them; so it might be that what I was seeing was a bit of the world as it had been once upon a time—the wonderful world that the Old People had lived in; as it had been before God sent Tribulation."
“There was only one true trail, and by following it we should, with God’s help and in His own good time, regain all that had been lost. But so faint was the trail, so set with traps and deceits, that every step must be taken with caution, and it was too dangerous for a man to rely on his own judgment. Only the authorities, ecclesiastical and lay, were in a position to judge whether the next step was a rediscovery, and so, safe to take; or whether it deviated from the true re-ascent, and so was sinful.”
“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.”