‘The Chrysalids’ tells the story of a society where anyone with a deformity is ruthlessly discriminated against on the grounds that they are defying God’s desired ‘True Image’. This proves to be a frightening concept whilst making you consider things from a different point of view and wonder if you could ever be so obsessed with a belief. Should the bible be interpreted so literally? Should religion be the basis for all decisions? These are some of the many questions posed by this rare, brilliant book.
One of the first things I will mention with regards to this book is my only complaint, which is that its main character could be more interesting. The story is more about raising moral questions than character development, and this is made evident by the fact David is mostly just present to narrate the story. One thing I did like, however, is that the character’s childhood innocence at the start of the book provides an insight into how society would view deformities before their minds were poisoned. It was interesting to see why threatened the ‘deviant’ characters felt, as well as how each tribe with their own deviations was said to believe they were the ‘normal’ ones. In some ways, this book makes its reader appreciate how tolerant our society can be.
The book is well-written, with Wyndham having created a brilliant fantasy land. Even the outdated science does not hinder the book, and the telepathy scenes are enthralling. It made for riveted reading, especially as you observed the lengths the obsessed characters would go to to obtain purity. Life is ruled by statistics in a world where even an innocent baby can be disowned for being different to its peers. At several points in the novel, life is portrayed as a game to be played to the advantage of its participants. It would be an interesting read for anyone with an interest in psychology- David’s father is so obsessive he can be borderline frightening at times.
‘The Chrysalids’ could be viewed as a fictitious warning of what can occur to a society. It even suggests a new way of judging social class- using physical appearance rather then wealth. It is disturbing to see how the characters are reagrded as worthless by everyone except innocent children until they have a certificate guaranteeing their ‘purity’. Certain events in the novel unfold just because of an extra toe on a footprint. As a whole, Wyndham has created an inventive novel with the rare ability to make oneself ask many moral questions. If you’re a deep thinker, then this is probably a novel you’d enjoy.
Rating: ****.5 (4.5/5)