April 13, 2011
The Significance of the Title The Chrysalids From the caterpillar to the butterfly, the life cycle of this insect goes through many changes. The caterpillar evolves into the chrysalis which then grows into the butterfly. The novel, The Chrysalids, has the main idea of this life cycle, but the author, John Wyndham shows through his novel that everything will encounter change. He shows that sometimes we do not get what we always want. Unlike butterflies, change does not always have the positive outcome that is expected.
The Old People's society has the better "start" compared to the caterpillar. There society is more developed because the Old People lived in a city with advanced technology. "The traffic in the streets were strange, carts running with no horses to pull them: and sometimes there would be things in the sky, shiny-fish shaped things that certainly were not birds", says David, who describes the Old People's society. (Wyndham 5) In contrast, the caterpillar is less developed because the process of evolution is slow. Although the caterpillar is "slow", the outcome is better than the Old People's society. The caterpillar changed into a chrysalis, but the Old People's society got wiped out by Tribulation, "I was seeing was a bit of the world as it had been once upon a time- that the Old People had lived in: as it had been before God sent Tribulation”, thought David. (Wyndham 5) As a result the Old People’s society did not end up with the positive outcome that was expected.
In the Chrysalids, Tribulation is the nuclear explosion. "Tribulation wasn't just tempests, hurricanes, floods and fires like the things they had in the Bible. It was like all of them together- and something a lot worse too. It made the Black Coasts, and the ruins that glow at night, and the
Badlands.", Uncle Axel stated. (Wyndham 78) The nuclear explosion is the consequence of the Old People's society which had created different places, like the Fringes, the Black Coast, the Badlands and Waknuk. The caterpillar at the chrysalis stage has a neutral "after effect" because there is no up or down side to evolving. The explosion is the main change in the Chrysalids, as well as the chrysalis which is the main change of the butterfly. Similarly, the chrysalis and the explosion are related in some ways, they are the evolution to the outcome.
Waknuk is the opposite of the butterfly because of the outcome. The process of evolution is different for both because of the starting and ending point of each cycle. The evolution of the butterfly and Waknuk affects how each would end. For example, Old People's society has really advanced technology but Waknuk did not have this technical knowledge because of Tribulation."There wasn't another steam-engine within a hundred miles, and we were proud of it", boasted David (Wyndham 24) this quote shows how much change can affect the result of anything. Another example is the caterpillar because it was unattractive at first but after the chrysalis stage it becomes a butterfly that is better. Both Waknuk and the butterfly went through the same process of evolution but arrived at a completely different point.
Change does not consistently turn out the way people want it to be. For example, the Old People's society is better than the current Waknuk though it had been destroyed in the end because of Tribulation. This is the evolution in the novel because it is the growth or development towards the end. The evolution of Waknuk is the same as the life cycle of a butterfly because it
goes through the same process of evolving, but the steps to get there are different. As Drew Barrymore quoted: "Everyone is like a butterfly, they start out ugly and awkward and then morph into beautiful graceful butterflies that everyone loves". But the question is, can we morph into this beautiful butterfly?