The Chrysalids by John Wyndham Total Study Test and key version 1 by George Lamont



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The Chrysalids by John Wyndham Total Study Test and key version 1.1 by George Lamont


Chapter I

1. What is the narrator’s dream? Describe it, how it was different than the author’s world, and why it helps establish the setting of the book. He dreams of a modern city, complete with tall buildings, care, and aircraft. The author appears to live in a pre-industrial, agriculture based society that lacks the technology of the modern times. It sets the setting of the story in the future, yet in a state de-evolved from the present day.

2. Who does the author meet, and what does he discover about this person? He meets Sophie, a girl his own age, and finds that she has six toes on each foot.

3. What promise does David make to his friend’s mother? Why is this promise important? What are the consequences for breaking the promise? He promises that he will keep secret that she has 6 toes on each foot. This promise is imperative because society is very strict about normality, and terrible things will happen to Sophie if anyone finds out.

4. What special ability do we learn that David has, and what are the circumstances under which the reader learns this? Why does this fact allow David to especially appreciate his promise? David has telepathic ability, the ability to communicate with others by thought, not through normal communications. He can communicate through “thought shapes”, and tries to do so with Sophie’s mother but fails. Her mother has only a trace of this ability, and isn’t aware of it. This abnormal ability David has places him in the same danger of Sophie of being rooted out and expelled or killed for being a “deviant”.

5. What is this society afraid of? What do they believe is behind their fear? What is the religious basis of their fears, and the rules they have made to deal with them? Society fears any deviation, fearing that the Devil creates human-like bodies in which to invade humanity and corrupt them, such as the Adam and Eve story, where Satan entered Eden in the form of a snake. The rationale is that Satan doesn’t have the perfect power of God, so he can’t make a human without some imperfection, or deviation. The people have taken literally the Genesis story, that describes how a person should look.

6. What doubts does David have about what he has learned about his friend, and how the laws of his society apply to this situation? David understands the laws about deviance, but only from constant training. He cannot believe that Sophie is the Devil’s creature, or that she is somehow “hateful in the sight of God”.

Chapter II

1. What is the name of David’s community? Who built it? What position does his family hold because of this? Waknuk was built by Elias Strorm, who claims he left the east for its “ungodly ways”. He started the community; therefore, David’s father is the unofficial head of the community.

2. What are the two books that are left to form the society? What kind of society have they created? How does the characterization of David’s grandfather demonstrate the author’s point about this kind of living? Only The Bible and a book called Nicholson’s Repentences survived, causing the surviving society to be very fundamentally Christian, and very strict about Christian laws. Elias Strorm’s very strict ways turned his beautiful wife into a withered, grey woman who was almost glad to die 1 year after David’s father was born. (It is important to note that a similar situation occurs in Dickens’ Dombey and Son, where Mrs. Dombey almost gladly dies after the birth of Paul Jr., having a most strict and single-minded husband.) The author is explaining that such a society stifles life.

3. Who were the Old People, and what were they like? What can you extrapolate (guess) about what happened to the Old People, and how is this relevant to our society now? The Old People were our modern day society, and they had our technology, myths of which amaze David’s society, who believe that the Old People were almost god-like but somehow were lost. (This is much like the Romantic Era notion of the “Golden Age”, where people were blissful and nearly perfect, soon after the Fall of Man. These golden people just disappeared in Romantic myth.) Clues in the story suggest that the Old People destroyed themselves in a nuclear holocaust, which was a serious threat to humankind in the sixties, when this book was written.

4. What is the big sign that hangs facing the main door to David’s house? Explain why this is an example of foreboding. “Watch thou for the mutant”, which warns all people, above all else, of the “danger” of mutants. This is foreboding because the reader already knows that both David and Sophie are technically mutants. We know they will be caught somehow.

5. Explain why it is significant that this fear in society comes more from Nicholson’s Repentences than from the Bible. Remember that Nicholson’s Repentences is not a real book, but one written after the Old People disappeared. It is important in Christianity to separate real Biblical text from the ideas and other books of later Christians. Many people interpret the Bible in different ways. The Bible itself does not strongly warn against mutants. Rather, Repentences is the hysterical work of a person who interprets the Biblical description of humans to be somehow very important in detecting and averting evil. The author is telling us that of the many terrible things that people do, claiming it is “God’s Will”, very little of it actually comes from the Bible.

6. What are some examples of Deviations? Anything from crops with strange forms, to misshapen animals, unusual plants, or even slightly deformed humans.

7. What are the differences between the livable areas, the Fringes, and the Badlands? Considering what the reader understands about the demise of the Old people, and the effects of radiation, explain the existence of these three states. The livable area is low on radiation, and has little deviation caused by it. Still, some variations occur, but are considered not normal. The fringes are areas where deviation is quite common, likely due to higher levels of radiation. The badlands, likely sites of nuclear attacks, have deadly radiation levels. However, the people believe it has to do with the influence of Satan.

8. How are the fringes people a threat? Why are the stories about fringes people eating children a comment on religious mythology? Fringes people have made small raids on the civilized areas for food due to less space and more fringes people. Parents tell their small children about repulsive fringes people who eat children, to keep them in line. This is much like scaring kids with stories of witches and devils. This is an example of how religious mythology deceives its followers about the true nature of evil, which is not found in devils and ghosts, but in people, even religious people.

Chapter III

1. When Sophie says that she doesn’t believe people will be able to fly, even though stories say that the Old People could, how does this show that Sophie is not the mutant people would think she is? Sophie shares the arrogant belief of humans that they have almost reached the limit of possible knowledge, even though humans always surprise themselves with amazing new discoveries. Her limited view about the future helps characterize Sophie as not a mutant, not so different from the rest of people, despite her physical anomaly.

2. What casual remark does David make in his home that alarms his family? What is their reaction, and why is it so extreme? As he tries to dress his wound from a wood splinter, his casually remarks that if he had another hand, he would be able to do it himself. Of course, with the family very committed to their idea of religion and normalcy, they are offended. They believe that David has insulted God, and that he has wished to be a mutant. They are so super-sensitive about mutations and religion that they are totally unreasonable. The author is suggesting that religion can be too extreme when the intended meaning is lost.

3. What is the terrible, but prophetic, dream that David has the night after his remark? Explain the symbolism and meaning of the dream. Also, explain how this dream is foreboding. He dreams that his father is going to slaughter Sophie like some mutant animal. Sophie begs for mercy and help, but receives none from the devout people who sing a hymn to God. The irony is that in the Christian faith, God is merciful and loves all creatures, yet these people are the opposite. David’s father then kills Sophie by cutting her throat. The symbolism is that Sophie is the innocent lamb, like Jesus, who is sacrificed by a troop of people who have missed the point about the Bible. David’s father, who believes he is doing perfect good, is actually evil, under the guise of strict religion. The dream is foreboding because it warns the reader that Sophie is in real danger.

Chapter IV

1. Who is Rosalind? What does Uncle Axel find out about David and Rosalind? What is his reaction? What must David promise to Uncle Axel? Rosalind is David’s cousin who lives as a neighbor. Uncle Axel discovers David “talking” out loud, but really communicating telepathically to Rosalind. Uncle Axel, unlike David’s father, is very open-minded about mutancy, and is very concerned but has no intention of ever reporting the two. He warns David that no one must ever know this about them, and makes David promise never to “talk” out loud again.

2. During the invasion of the normal area by the fringes people, what is special about the prisoner who is brought to David’s house? What is David’s father’s reaction to the prisoner? What can you speculate about the prisoner’s identity? He appears normal while sitting on a horse, but has “monstrously” long arms and legs. He closely resembles David’s father, and turns out to be David’s father’s brother, a deviant, who was sent to the fringes at birth. David’s father appears almost ill at the sight of his own brother, a fringes person and leader of the fringes people.

3. What argument takes place between Angus Morton and Joseph Strorm? What is the inspector’s position on the matter? How does the matter of the Dakers’ cat relate to Strorm’s character? What angry remark does the inspector say to Strorm that supports the author’s opinion of Strorm? Angus Morton gets a legitimate pair of great-horses, who are very large, but sanctioned by the government. Of course, Strorm’s misguided devotion to his version of Christian faith motivates him to demand that the horses be destroyed as Offences (deviants), even though the government has sanctioned them. He accuses the inspector and the government of being corrupt. The inspector reminds Strorm about an incident where Strorm, acting as magistrate, destroyed a neighbor’s tailless cat before the people could complete the appeal. The cat turned out to be legitimate, but not before Strorm killed it. It shows how misguided and ruthless Strorm and other fundamentalists can be about their faith. Finally, the inspector, who is reasonably understanding and liberal-minded, accuses Strorm of being a bigot and a fool, which, really, he is. Strorm proceeds to accuse the government and inspector of being the forces of evil.

4. What does the reader learn about the location of the story? It takes place on the island of Labrador, near Newfoundland, in Canada.

5. What is “Tribulation”? What Christian story does it resemble? The people in this society believe that the cause for the loss of the old people, the badlands, and the mutancy, are caused by some act of punishment by God. It resembles the story of the flood and Noah’s Ark in the Bible.

6. Explain how the Ethics teacher describes the cause of tribulation, other cases of God’s punishment, and how people need to act in order to re-attain the Golden Age. A) The cause of Tribulation is guessed to be “a phase of irreligious arrogance” in the past; perhaps the Old People didn’t worship God like they were supposed to. B) Other Christian examples of God’s punishment are the expulsion from Eden, the great Flood, pestilences, the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Captivity (of the Israelites by the Egyptians). C) The Ethics man explains that the religious and government leaders must carefully think about each new thing they find about the Old People, to decide if it is a sin or a step back to Grace (God/paradise).

Chapter V

1. How does Joseph Strorm explain the fact that the only field with deviations in it belongs to Angus Morton? How do you explain it? What does this tell the reader about religions linking events to causes? Joseph Strorm tells people that Morton is being punished for keeping the great-horses. However, it is likely a coincidence. It is an example of how religions explain certain causes for events, good or bad, that may in fact be random.

2. Who finds Sophie and David playing in the stream? What does he notice, and how? Why is this so serious? Alan Ervin finds them playing. Sophie starts to hide, but Alan notices a Sophie’s wet footprint of 6 toes on the rock, and knows she is a mutant. David doesn’t trust Alan, and Alan’s menacing manner suggest that he will happily report Sophie. David attacks him so Sophie can escape, but starts to lose the fight, until Sophie knocks him unconscious with a rock.

3. What does the Wender family decide to do, and why? What does David wants to do? What does David do as his last act to help Sophie? They decide to flee at once so that Sophie will not be caught. David wants to go with them, and they want him to come because David’s father is so terrible, but they cannot take him. David agrees to sleep at their house that night to buy Sophie’s family more time, even though he will be in trouble the next day.

4. Contrast the differences in which the inspector and David’s father react to David when he returns. What is their common goal? David’s father is absolutely furious and angry about Sophie, a “blasphemy”. He is out of control, and tries to bully David into talking. He finally sends David to his room to receive a whipping from his father. The inspector, in contrast, tries to gently and reasonably get David to admit who Sophie is and where she is going.

5. What happens when David’s father takes the inspector’s whip with which to beat David? Why is this important to the characterization of the inspector? When David’s father takes the inspector’s whip, the inspector refuses to allow David’s father to use it against David. David’s father is a religious zealot, and violent about getting his way. The inspector, on the other demonstrates some restraint, compassion, and even distaste for his job. He believes he must find the mutant, but questions if it is worth any cost.

6. Why does David feel guilty at the end of the chapter? Is he justified in feeling guilty? David, through an extensive beating from his father, is forced to admit the information about Sophie. He is not truly responsible, considering that his is still a boy and his father was willing to beat him torturously to get the information. David’s father is out of control and has missed the point of Christianity. He doesn’t see the loving side of the religion, only the strict, ruthless side, which shows his own true characteristics of love for power and shallow sense of the nature of evil.

Chapter VI

1. What are the two recurring dreams that David has? How are they both foreshadowing? He dreams again of his father killing Sophie and of the silver city in the distance. Both of these things become true in a form.

2. What is ironic about the following comment by the inspector: “Loyalty is a great virtue, but there is such a thing as misplaced loyalty. One day you will understand the importance of a greater loyalty. The Purity of the Race.” (pg. 56) The inspector lectures David about how his loyalty is misplaced, and that his loyalty should be for the religion. However, the reader see that it is the people who fear mutants so greatly whose loyalties are misplaced. The people who fear the mutants like the inspector and Joseph Strorm do not understand the true nature of evil. Their belief in the Devil’s mutants is a misplaced belief. His words echo the words of Adolf Hitler, who vehemently tried to purify the Aryan race and eliminate the Jews. It is a sobering comparison for the reader to consider what misplaced loyalties can produce, such as the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews out of loyalty to Hitler.

3. How does the inspector relieve David’s guilty conscience? Is this consistent with the inspector’s position? Is it consistent with his character? He tells David that Sophie and her family were not caught because David has given up his information, but by chance by a patrol. It is not consistent with the inspector’s position to have compassion for those who help deviants, but it is consistent with his very humane and decent nature.

4. What does Uncle Axel discourage David from doing? What does Uncle Axel tell David about the outside world? He convinces David not to run away, else he will only be caught, and will have no where to go in any case. Uncle Axel tells of his sea travels and the stories he has heard. He explains that far away from Labrador, there are groups of people who are very different from the people in Labrador, yet they believe they are the normal people and the visitors are the deviants. Others don’t worry about Deviation at all. He explains that there is no way for the people in Labrador to know if they are the true image of God, because The Bible doesn’t actually explain what that image is. Nicholson’s Repentences does, but it was written after Tribulation, so he couldn’t really know.

5. Suggest comparable stories in Greek Mythology that match the sailors’ accounts of the land ruled by women, and that these women caused sailors to get shipwrecked, then ate them. What kind of stories are these, and how do they help define what level of advancement the Labrador civilization is at? The land ruled by women is similar to the Greek myth of the amazon women tribe of warriors who mutilated and enslaved their men children, and raised their girls to be leaders and warriors. However, the Amazons did not eat their men. They had children by having sex with men from other tribes. The story of shipwrecking sailors is similar to the Greek Sirens, three bird women who could cause any man sailor to be shipwrecked on their island through their beautiful singing. These stories are myths, and show that the Labrador people’s understanding of their world is still very primitive.

6. What does Axel suggest about David and Rosalind’s ability, that helps David see the short-sightedness of the religious policy against mutations? Axel believes more in Darwin’s theory of evolution, that the fittest creatures survive. New levels of fitness are achieved through mutation. Mutations that increase an organism’s survivability select those organisms to reproduce, and therefore become the new norm for the species. David and Rosalind’s telepathic ability may be such a mutation. In addition, the myth that the Old People could communicate over great distances (of course, by radio and telephone, but Axel and David don’t know that), suggests that David might be more like the Old People than the rest in Waknuk.

7. What happened to the ninth of David’s telepathic group? What do they decide happened to him? He disappeared without explanation. After asking around, Uncle Axel reassures David he must have died accidentally or moved away.

Chapter VII

1. Who is David’s new sibling? Petra.

2. Why is the family so anxious until the inspector arrives? Why don’t the Strorms announce the baby’s birth right away? How does the inspector get some revenge against David’s father during this time? They are concerned that the inspector will find a mutation in the new child, as all new parents fear in this community. They dare not announce the birth until the baby is declared normal. It is a great shame to have a mutant baby, but this occurrence is not rare. If the baby is mutated, they must get rid of it, so they don’t announce the birth until the baby is cleared. The inspector gets back at Joseph Strorm by not coming right away to examine the baby. Usually, Strorm’s high position would bring the inspector right away, but the inspector is taking his time.

3. What does Aunt Harriet want David’s mother, Emily, to do? What is Harriet’s argument in favor of this? What is Emily’s reaction, and what do she and Joseph tell Harriet to do? Why is this particular incident particularly bad for Harriet’s marriage? What is Harriet’s final protest to Emily and Joseph? Harriet has had a slightly mutated baby, and wants Emily to lend Petra to her so that Harriet can get a normalcy certificate for the mutated baby by substituting Petra for the examination. Harriet argues that the baby is fine, save only for a slight mutation, and that she loves the baby all the same. Emily and Joseph, as devout as ever, are angry, and demand Harriet give the baby up for inspection, and that she pray to God for forgiveness. Harriet is especially worried because this baby is her third mutated baby, and the law allows her husband, Henry, to divorce her. Harriet herself becomes angry in the end at Emily and Joseph, and vehemently retorts, “I shall pray Him (God) too, that the hearts of the self-righteous may be broken.” (P. 73.)

4. Analysis: Examine the following quote from Harriet (p. 73), regarding the will of God regarding mutants. “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....”

Question: How does Harriet’s comment suggest the merciful nature of Christianity, instead of Joseph Strorm’s harsh version? How do you compare Harriet and Joseph to the New and old Testaments of the Bible? How do these two characters show the difference between The Bible, and Nicholson’s Repentences? Use a properly composed paragraph to explain and justify your answer.



5. Why does David’s mother change her tone when David’s father reminds her that she has also had two mutant babies (Don’t look in the book for this answer - think!)? What can David and the reader guess has happened to these babies? She realizes that despite her religious devotion, she may too have a third mutant baby, which would give Joseph grounds to divorce her and turn her out. The reader and David can guess that the two mutant babies were killed or abandoned in the fringes.

6. How many mutant babies has David’s mother actually had, detected and undetected? What is ironic about this? Four - David and Petra, plus the two abandoned babies. It is ironic that the most devoted anti-mutant people are producing them as much as anyone, and that some of their children have survived without them knowing. In fact, Joseph and Emily are responsible for bringing mutants into their community and keeping them there, something they would be horrified by if they knew about it.

7. What does David learn has happened to his Aunt Harriet and the baby? Aunt Harriet is found dead in the river, but the baby is missing.

Chapter VIII

1. Why does David pray to God every night - what does he ask God to do? Why does Uncle Axel think this is a bad thing to do? David asks God to make his special ability to go away, because David is so frightened. Axel tells him that this is wrong, that God gave him that gift, and he should not ask god to take it away any more than ask God to take away his vision or hearing.


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