Plants are burned, animals are slaughtered, and human deviations are banished to the Fringes where they are out of sight, cannot reproduce, and will either die or live a miserable life. The main reason that the citizens of Waknuk desire such sameness and conformity is because of their superstitious and religious beleifs. They believe that God sent tribulations to “The Old People”, and that was why their society was destroyed. Because they don’t want the same thing to happen to their society, the people of “The New World” and of Waknuk believe that they must keep the gene pool free of mutations and deviations, so that everyone is made in the “true image” of God. Those who are not in the “true image”, and those who do not do everything within their capability to keep society true to how God created and desired it are shaming God, and will force him to send tribulations to the town as punishment.
The extreme need of the citizens of Waknuk to conform and follow their cultural superstitions drives them to do crazy things that are detrimental to their community, such as burn crops, kill livestock, and send away or kill their friends and family. Without this extreme desire to rid themselves and their community of differences, and to please God and avoid his wrath and punishment, the citizens of Waknuk could probably live fairly normal lives. They would have more food, more livestock, and probably more money from selling anything that they had left over. The Chrysalids demonstrates how diversity can be a good thing, and how dangerous conformity and societal superstitions can be
Through Joseph Strorm’s harsh treatment of David, we can see how important the issue of conformity is to the inhabitants of Waknuk.Conformity in Waknuk is manifested in several ways, be it burning of Deviant crops, slaughtering of Deviant livestock and spreading awareness on the dangers of the Mutant to their peaceful society.Joseph shows this need for conformity in this passage by blasting David for even suggesting deviation from the Norm. The evidence for this is “you Blasphemed, boy. You found fault with the Norm,” “This is a terrible thing, an outrageous thing. You are…committing blasphemy!” Joseph immediately accused poor David of having blasphemed and started yelling at him, without mercy or bothering to understand the truth.His treatment of David therefore shows how important conformity to the Norm really is to him.
In the famous novel, _The Chrysalids,_ by John Wyndham, the author develops ideas on the nature and effect of conformity through the society of Waknuk. Much of _The Chrysalids_ revolves around conformity, superstition, and their consequences. The people of Waknuk are all extremely conformist. They live, and have been raised in a community where there is no room for diversity, individuality or variation. They believe the same things, live the same way, and anyone or anything different from the rest of them, and varying from their idea of “the true image” (Wyndham page 13) is “neither man nor woman.
It is a blasphemy against the true Image of God and hateful in the sight of God” (Wyndham page 13). The main reason that the citizens of Waknuk desire such sameness and conformity is because of their superstitious and religious beliefs. They believe that God sent tribulations to “the Old People” (Wyndham page 5) in displeasure. This idea of orthodoxy caused harm to their community, created intolerance and prejudice and led to a stagnant, static society.
As mentioned before, Waknuk as a society have this all-consuming passion for conformity, believing that it is beneficial as it prevents another Tribulation. As it turns out however, it has rather devastating effects.The acute need of the citizens of Waknuk to conform and follow their cultural superstitions drives them to do nonsensical things that are detrimental to their community, such as burn crops, kill livestock, and send away or kill their friends and family. Without this extreme desire to rid themselves and their community of differences, and to please God and avoid his wrath and punishment, the citizens of Waknuk may well be able to live fairly normal lives. They would have more food, more livestock, and probably more money from selling anything that they had left over.
In addition to being injurious, conformity also led to prejudice and intolerance in Waknuk. The lives of everyone in Waknuk revolve completely around judging and discriminating against anyone and anything that is even slightly varying from the “true image” (Wyndham page 13) of God (commonly called deviations or mutants). The people of Waknuk believe that Deviants are an abomination and the work of the Devil. Anything that does not conform to the Norm is considered “accursed in the sight of God and man” (Wyndham page 27) and shunned. From a young age, the Definition of Man and the importance of Purity are drilled into these citizens. These teachings lead to a fixed mindset revolving around the persecution of Deviants upon growing up.
This intolerance is also visible in the Strorm household and in the antagonist; Joseph Strorm’s actions. Joseph, upon hearing his son innocently wish for a third hand, accuses him of “calling upon the Devil” (Wyndham page 26). This bigotry even applies to infants as is shown when Emily indicts Harriet of “producing a defilement” (Wyndham page 72) that will “grow up to…spread pollution” (Wyndham page 72). There are no human emotions in the rule of law in Waknuk. Everything is ruled by fear and dogma. Innocents are sacrificed so that people can have a feeling of control. Deviant humans are cruelly sterilized and abandoned in the Fringes, never allowed to return. This harsh treatment of Deviations shows us that Waknuk is intolerant of and prejudiced against Deviation.
Lastly, conformity also accelerated Waknuk’s downfall in that it led to refuse the notion of change and the introduction of new ideas. Waknuk did not want to change anything about their society, and wanted to keep ferreting out Deviations until the whole society was pure and true according to the standards of their so-called faith. As a result of their rigidity, they became a stagnant society because there was no progress forward. The Sealanders are the exact opposite of Waknuk, they embraced the change and realized that the “essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution: and we are part of it. The static, the enemy of change, is the enemy of life, and therefore our implacable enemy”.
When the Sealand woman arrives to save the telepaths, she comments that David’s people are the ones who are going to be extinct, because they do not allow change, that 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…” (Wyndham page 182) If the Waknuk community did not have fears, they would realize that the world lives on reformation and contrast and that “life is change, that is how it differs from the rocks, change is its very nature…The living form defies evolution at its peril; if it does not adapt, it will be broken.” (Wyndham page 182)
The people of Waknuk have lived in fear for two generations, even since David’s grandfather founded the place. They have interpreted the Bible specifically enough that they are convinced that they know exactly what a person should look like.
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… (ch 1)
This limited view of life extends to their burning crops and plants that are deviant from what they expect. Therefore there is no change, and no evolution. The people are stuck where they have always been, and they refuse to allow change.
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Prejudice and Racism
Racism is defined as discrimination or prejudice based on race. To be prejudice or racist it is to have an opinion or judgment to be against a certain race or person not of your own culture. This can result in large disagreements between different races. The author expresses racism in this novel through certain events, main characters, the setting and the choice of words he uses to support the theme. The protagonist, David Strorm, the differences between the Norms and the Fringes, the laws of the Waknuk society and the ways of living are all illustrations of racism. John Wyndham’s novel, The Chrysalids, shows prejudice and racism throughout a major part of the novel. It shows what life is like when you do or do not respect people for their race, looks, talents, or way of life.
David Strorm, the protagonist, is not accepted in his society because he is different from the other people. He is able to communicate with a small group of friends through telepathy. He is just like all of the other people in his community until people start finding out about his ability to communicate through thought-shapes. David is a very respectful and truthful person who accepts all people for who they are because he knows what it’s like to be in danger and not accepted by his family, or other people that live in his community. Because David has a minor difference from the other people in his society, he does not fit in with them. David has to face a dangerous life because of the person he is, even though he cannot control his differences. Working with friends, David decides that he will find a place where he can be accepted for who he is and not be judged.
The people of the Fringes and the Norms are two different groups of people that are both racist against one other. The people of the Fringes are known to live in the ‘Badlands’ when speaking from the Norms point of view. Just from hearing the name of their community, one is able to interpret that the Norms do not accept the people of the Fringes, or anyone that is not like themselves. This tells us that the Norms consider themselves to be perfect, or as understood through their name, normal or average. Though it sounds like the Norms are against the Fringes’ people, and the Fringes’ people do not take part in their non-acceptance; it does work both ways. The people living in the Badlands are very strict. If there is a person coming into their lands from the community of Waknuk, they are sent to the leader of the Fringes to be inspected. When they catch any Norms trespassing in their land, the Norm may be tortured or punished. They do not just let people into their community that are running away from their own. There must be reasons and proof that they truly do belong to the Fringes.
There are many rules and laws in the Waknuk society that prove that there is a large amount of racism throughout the novel. “Only the image of God is man.” (Wyndham18). This quote tells us what they expect if you live in Waknuk. If you do not have the proper number of arms, legs, fingers, or toes or if you do not follow the image that is described by God, you are not known as a human being. Since there are people that look different and have different talents, abilities, or disabilities, they are not accepted or respected by the people of Waknuk. This eventually led to war because people are against others who are not exactly like them. “Blessed is the norm, and in purity our salvation.” (18) This quote shows us that the people of Waknuk believe that they are perfect. Everyone in this community follows and believes in everything these quotes tell you. They all follow the same rules and religion. This is what makes them all similar and keeps them together as a community.
In the novel, The Chrysalids, the ways of living show a large amount of racism. The two races are against each other because they have differences. Their disrespect ends up with many people killed and war between the two groups. All of the Norms follow the same religion. They must all be perfect and have the same human features and nothing more, or they are not accepted by the Norms, but would be accepted by the people of the Fringes. They are punished if they are caught in Waknuk for being different than everyone else. They would be known as a deviant. The Norms and the deviants live on two different pieces of land separated by water. They do not communicate with each other because they disagree with the rules and laws of one another’s society. Because of these differences and ways of living, there are two races totally against each other and they end up at war.
The Chrysalids shows us what our life would be like if we all disrespected one another based on our looks, talents, abilities, or disabilities. Living life through prejudice and racism is exactly what the characters in the novel are doing. It is evident in this novel that people do not get along when we do not accept and respect people for who they are.
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