The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham
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.
2. Who does the narrator meet, and what does he discover about this person?
3. What promise does David make to his friend’s mother? Why is this promise important? What are the consequences for breaking the promise?
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?
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?
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?
1. What is the name of David’s community? Who built it? What position does his family hold because of this?
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?
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?
4. What is the big sign that hangs facing the main door to David’s house? Explain why this is an example of foreboding.
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.
6. What are some examples of Deviations?
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.
8. How are the fringes people a threat? Why are the stories about fringes people eating children a comment on religious mythology?
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?
2. What casual remark does David make in his home that alarms his family? What is their reaction, and why is it so extreme?
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.
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?
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?
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?
4. What does the reader learn about the location of the story?
5. What is “Tribulation”? What Christian story does it resemble?
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.
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?
2. Who finds Sophie and David playing in the stream? What does he notice, and how? Why is this so serious?
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?
4. Contrast the differences in which the inspector and David’s father react to David when he returns. What is their common goal?
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?
6. Why does David feel guilty at the end of the chapter? Is he justified in feeling guilty?
1. What are the two recurring dreams that David has? How are they both foreshadowing?
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)
3. How does the inspector relieve David’s guilty conscience? Is this consistent with the inspector’s position? Is it consistent with his character?
4. What does Uncle Axel discourage David from doing? What does Uncle Axel tell David about the outside world?
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?
6. What does Axel suggest about David and Rosalind’s ability, that helps David see the short-sightedness of the religious policy against mutations?
7. What happened to the ninth of David’s telepathic group? What do they decide happened to him?
1. Who is David’s new sibling?
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?
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?
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?
6. How many mutant babies has David’s mother actually had, detected and undetected? What is ironic about this?
7. What does David learn has happened to his Aunt Harriet and the baby?
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?
2. What are the names of the 9 telepaths (including the missing one)?
3. How is Michael always neat or at the top of his class, and the others able to learn from his school classes?
1. Who is the new telepath? How do the others find out? What is different about this telepath?
2. What is different about David’s repetitive dream? What story element is this?
3. Why is the season so particularly bad? What is Jacob’s explanation? In Jacob’s youth, what happened to women who gave birth to mutants? Why is it unfair that the fathers don’t receive the same punishment? What happened to the babies and why? Do you think these practices actually helped keep control of mutancy? If not, why not? Can you suggest other possible reasons to explain the increased rate of mutation?
4. How does Jacob justify his opinion that mutations must be destroyed? What does David learn happens to mutant babies or people once discovered?
5. Analysis outside the novel: How is Jacob similar to Old Man Warner in the short story, “The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson? What comment do these characters make on tradition versus advancement?
6. What warning does Axel give David?
7. What event does David discover will happen? Why is this commonplace event so dangerous for David and the telepaths?
1. Why is Anne’s choice so especially bad? What arguments does the group use against her decision? Is their argument a form of discrimination?
2. What does Uncle Axel suggest they need to do to overcome the danger? What does David think of this choice?
3. What happens to Alan Ervin? Who does Anne suspect?
4. What becomes of Anne? What important thing does Rachel find, and why is it important? What does Rachel do with it, and why?
5. What does Michael realize about the members of the group, which could be important to their safety later in the novel?
1. What trouble does Petra have? Why does the group’s response place them in danger? Who questions them?
2. What is important about the “others” that Petra can telepathically communicate with, both in terms of Petra’s ability and the telepaths social status?
3. Why is Uncle Axel concerned?
4. How did Uncle Axel figure out that Alan knew about the telepaths?
5. Who killed Alan, and why?
6. What resolutions does the group make in regard to the new danger?
7. By this time, what is the relationship between David and Rosalind? How do their families’ feelings for each other affect this relationship?
1. Who wakens David, and with what news?
2. How did Rosalind’s mother react to Rosalind’s departure? What does David wonder about his own mother?
3. How do Michael and Mark volunteer to help David, Rosalind, and Petra?
4. Why does Rosalind get so upset as David wakes up? How do David and the others reassure her?
5. Why are Sally and Katherine sorry to the others? What “incentive” was used against them? What does Michael vow?
6. Why are the people so eager to catch and telepaths, more eager than they would be for other mutants fleeing?
7. Who does Petra detect that the others can’t? Where is this person from? What do David and the others learn about this place, and how is this relevant to David’s dreams?
8. What warning does Michael give to David, Rosalind, and Petra?
1. Who does David’s group encounter at the outset of the chapter? What action do they take?
2. What instruction does the far-away New Zealand telepath give the group? What is important about this member of the group? What encouraging news does the New Zealand woman give them?
3. Why can’t Petra understand why David must kill them if they are captured?
4. What happens as the David, Rosalind, and Petra reach the edge of the fringes? What saves them from capture?
5. How does the chapter end? What do you suspect has happened?
1. What knowledge of Rosalind’s character is presented at the beginning of the chapter?
2. What different version of the Christian religion does David hear from his captor? Specifically, compare and contrast references to the Devil and God to what David was taught. How does this relate to what Uncle Axel said to David about the “true image”? How does this support Darwin’s theory of evolution, and how does this benefit the telepaths?
3. Why is it ironic that all people caught entering the fringes are taken prisoner?
4. What do the telepaths agree to tell the fringes people? What do they agree to hide from them?
5. What opinions does the New Zealand woman express about normal people? How do these comments echo the very same problems in the attitudes of the normal people and the fringes people? How does she explain the causes of Tribulation?
6. What do David and Rosalind notice about the appearance of the fringes people they meet, and how does this compare with what they had expected?
7. Who does David meet in the fringe settlement? What is the story behind this person? Why is this person so hopeful that David’s father is in the search force?
8. What is the fringe leader’s ruthless intention, and why does David try to attack him? What is the leader’s response, and how is this somewhat characteristically similar to David’s own father?
9. How do the guards deal with David at the end of the chapter?
1. Whom does David meet? What does he notice about this person, and why is this surprising? How does this make a comment on the idea of divine intervention?
2. What is the relationship between Sophie and the spider man? How does Sophie react to the fact that David and Rosalind are in love?
3. Who among the telepaths is still alive at this point? What do the telepaths believe has happened to the others?
4. What does Sophie volunteer to do to assist Rosalind and Petra? What does she take with her for the job? What does David notice about this object when Sophie returns?
1. How do Sophie and Rosalind regard and react to each other? What are each of their reasons for these feelings?
2. What is the result of the first battle between the normals and the fringes people?
3. What is the black glass, and where does it come from? What explanation do the people have for its existence?
4. When Petra communicates with Rachel, what does she learn about Rachel’s feelings? What is important about how Petra learned this information? How does this threaten the other telepaths in the group, considering evolutionary theory?
5. Who is with the normal army? What do David and Rosalind realize this person intends to do, explaining why this normal army is pressing so far into fringe territory? What can the reader confirm has happened to Sally and Katherine based on this realization?
6. What is surprising about the fact that the New Zealand woman believes in tribulation?
7. What is he New Zealand woman of what David and the telepaths should do about his father? What is her reasoning?
8. Describe briefly the course and outcome of the battle between the fringe and normal armies.
9. What happens to the spider-man, Sophie, and David’s father?
10. What kind of craft does the New Zealand woman arrive in?
11. Describe the weapon employed by the New Zealand woman.
1. How does the New Zealand woman undo the effects of her weapon? Whom does she save?
2. Describe the New Zealand woman’s appearance, and suggest some possibilities as to what she might represent through her appearance.
3. After the New Zealand woman explains that she has decided that “…it was worth while…” to come, and mentions the costs of sending the ship, what can the reader extrapolate (guess) about the real reasons for the rescue? Was it altruism, or gain?
4. What very unpleasant news does the New Zealand woman have about who can go with her? How is this matter resolved?
5. How does the NZ woman justify what happens to all the fringes and normal people as she landed? What insightful observation does she make about the fate of her own race in the distant future? Does this insight support religious or scientific views on creation?
6. As they return to New Zealand, what recurring image does David see? What is so special about this place? How is Rosalind’s personality affected? What does the population’s reaction to Petra confirm about Petra’s importance?
1. What is the setting of the story? Be specific in regards to time, geographical location, important events preceding the novel, and the kind of society and how it is generally affected by religion.
2. What is the meaning of the title, and how does it relate to the novel?
3. Conflict: List all conflicts in the novel by type, giving the characters and the nature of each conflict.
Man vs. Himself
David vs. Himself:
Rosalind vs. Herself:
Emily Strorm vs. Herself:
The inspector vs. Himself:
Anne vs. Herself:
Man vs. Man
David vs. Father:
David vs. Alan:
David vs. The Spider Man:
Joseph Strorm vs. Angus Morton:
Joseph Strorm vs. Harriet (David’s aunt):
David vs. Alan Ervin:
Rosalind vs. Sophie:
The New Zealand woman vs. The normal army:
Man vs. Circumstances/Environment
David vs. Society:
Harriet vs. Society:
Joseph Strorm vs. Society:
Sophie vs. Society:
Uncle Axel vs. Society:
Anne vs. Society:
Man vs. The Unknown
David vs. God (Christianity):
Joseph Strorm vs. God:
Joseph Strorm vs. Satan:
Uncle Axel vs. God:
The New Zealand woman vs. The unknown future:
4. Characterization: Describe the main characters in terms of their characterization. Include such concepts as the 3 principles of characterization (plausibility, consistency, and motivation), and character types (round/flat, stock/unique, static/dynamic).
5. Does this novel appeal to the limited reader or the mature reader? Answer in a paragraph, fully justifying your answer.
6. What is the point of view, and how does it assist the characterization of their protagonist?
7. Explain the theme or themes of the novel.
8. What is ironic about the New Zealand woman’s attitudes at the end of the novel?
Expanding on the story – Use your imagination and knowledge of the story to answer these questions.
1. What happened to Sophie’s parents?
2. What became of Uncle Axel?
3. Do you believe Michael and Rachel ever escaped Waknuk?
4. How did the inspector react to the hunt for Rosalind, David, and Petra? What part did he play?
1. Is The Chrysalids an anti-religious novel? Or, is the author simply making constructive observations about the balance of Christianity and Science? If there is a balance, how do we create this balance?
2. Do the normal people in the story have good reasons to destroy mutations? Do not just consider their religious beliefs; consider moral, scientific and practical reasons for or against systematic destruction of mutations.
3. You are a legal representative for Sally and Katherine after their capture. Prepare an essay in which you argue for their defense. You must try to prove that they do not deserve to be killed (or made infertile). You may also argue that they are not mutants, in order to bolster their defense. Use all arguments and evidence at your disposal. Remember that you are trying to convince a religious judge of their innocence.
4. Does the people’s belief that they must exterminate or exile human mutants have support in Christianity? You must disregard the teachings referred to in Nicholson’s Repentances. You may consult reference materials or experts, such as a priest, minister, nun, etc.. Be sure to cite any information you get from books, including The Bible, as well as information from people.
5. Research the phenomenon of telepathy, or ESP (Extra Sensory Perception). Write a research-based essay explaining this phenomenon, including what abilities are thought to exist, how it is believed to work, what proof there is of its existence, and how common is the claim to have this ability.
6. Research Darwin’s theory of evolution. Explain how he came up with the theory, some examples that support the theory, how evolution works, and why this is important for human understanding of the world.
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