Waknuk operates under a set of laws and beliefs that discriminates against anyone or anything that does not look “normal.” Those who appear different in any way from the Image of God as prescribed by the Definition of Man are segregated from society and sterilized, so that they cannot produce more Deviations. The Chrysalids exposes the hypocrisy and ludicrousness of any society that kills its members in an attempt to be more pure and moral. This is, of course, a morally reprehensible act, and a deeply misguided one. The people who are the targets of this moralistic racism prove to be those with the highest moral standards, and the novel makes a clear statement about the impossibility of determining someone’s character from their appearance.
While much of the racism in the novel is driven by religious doctrine, this doctrine is fueled by a fear of the unknown. Rather than explore the world, the Waknukians isolate themselves to an extreme extent—so much so that they will go to extraordinary lengths to keep out the rest of the world. The Zealanders show a greater willingness to travel and explore, but they exhibit supremacist and xenophobic (a fear of foreigners) tendencies as well. Although the Waknukians actively seek out Offenses, while the Zealanders are more tolerant of difference, the Zealanders also show no compunction over killing those who they deem to be racially and intellectually inferior.
The fact that Waknukians would classify Zealanders as Deviations, while Zealanders consider Waknukians to be an inferior race deserving of death because they lack the ability to telepathically think-together, demonstrates the highly arbitrary nature of racism. This discrimination has nothing to do with truth, but rather is based on characteristics that are detested in one culture, but valued in another. Wyndham also forces the reader to think about this racism in a critical and personal way. Like the Waknukians killed by the Zealanders, the reader is not capable of think-together, and thus must wonder how he or she would fare in this world.
Racism and Fear of the Unknown ThemeTracker
Racism and Fear of the Unknown 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."
“And God created man in His own image. And God decreed that man should have one body, one head, two arms and two legs: that each arm should be jointed in two places and end in one hand: that each hand should have four fingers and one thumb: that each finger should bear a flat finger-nail.”
“And any creature that shall seem to be human, but is not formed thus is not human. It is neither man nor woman. It is a blasphemy against the true Image of God, and hateful in the sight of God.”
“The nearest approach to decoration was a number of wooden panels with sayings, mostly from Repentences, artistically burnt into them. The one on the left of the fireplace read: ONLY THE IMAGE OF GOD IS MAN. On the opposite wall two more said: BLESSED IS THE NORM, and IN PURITY OUR SALVATION. The largest was the one on the back wall, hung to face the door which led to the yard. It reminded everyone who came in: WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT!”
“So I learnt quite early to know what Offences were. They were things which did not look right—that is to say, did not look like their parents, or parent-plants. Usually there was only some small thing wrong, but however much or little was wrong it was an Offence, and if it happened among people it was called a Blasphemy—at least, that was the technical term, though commonly both kinds were called Deviations.”
“If John and Mary Wender had been there when I woke up struggling and crying, and then lay in the dark trying to convince myself that the terrible picture was nothing more than a dream, they would, I think, have felt quite a lot easier in their minds.”
“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.”
“Most of the numerous precepts, arguments, and examples in Ethics were condensed for us into this: the duty and purpose of man in this world is to fight unceasingly against the evils that Tribulation loosed upon it. Above all, he must see that the human form is kept true to the divine pattern in order that one day it may be permitted to regain the high place in which, as the image of God, it was set.”
“Well, every part of the definition is as important as any other; and if a child doesn’t come within it, then it isn’t human, and that means it doesn’t have as soul. It is not in the image of God, it is an imitation, and in the imitations there is always some mistake. Only God produces perfection, so although deviations may look like us in many ways, they cannot be really human. They are something quite different.”
“Perhaps the Old People were the image: very well then, one of the things they say about them is that they could talk to one another over long distances. Now we can’t do that—but you and Rosalind can. Just think that over, Davie. You two may be nearer to the image than we are.”
“You have sinned, woman, search your heart, and you will know that you have sinned. Your sin has weakened our defenses, and the enemy has struck through you. You wear the cross on your dress to protect you, but you have not worn it always in your heart. You have not kept constant vigilance for impurity. So there has been a Deviation; and deviation, any deviation from the true image is blasphemy—no less. You have produced a defilement!”
“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.”
“Of course they should be burnt like they used to be. But what happened? The sentimentalists in Rigo who never have to deal with them themselves said: ‘Even though they aren’t human, they look nearly human, therefore extermination looks like murder, or execution, and that troubles some people’s minds.’”
“But what’s got them so agitated about us is that nothing shows. We’ve been living among them for nearly twenty years and they didn’t suspect it. We could pass for normal anywhere. So a proclamation has been posted describing the three of you and officially classifying you as deviants. That means that you are non-human and therefore not entitled to any of the rights or protections of human society.”
“‘Why should they be afraid of us? We aren’t hurting them,’ she broke in.
‘I’m not sure that I know why,’ I told her. ‘But they are. It’s a feel-thing not a think-thing. And the more stupid they are, the more like everyone else they think everyone ought to be. And once they get afraid they become cruel and want to hurt people who are different.’”
“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.”
“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.”