Chrysalids Essay _Genevieve Pai_ by dandanhuanghuang


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Genevieve Pai

Mr. Ahumada

ENG 1D1-01

April 13th, 2011

                   The Influence of Women in David’s life in The Chrysalids

       The roles of women in society are often categorized as the teachers and the mother-

figures. In most cases, one would say that the most influential person in their lives would be their

mother: their guide and support throughout the journey of their life. In the novel, The ChrysaIids,

there are three important women in David's life that help to shape David's views: Sophie, Aunt

Harriet, and the Sealand woman. In the society of Waknuk, discrimination is displayed heavily

through their intolerance of the smallest 'deviations'. Deviational crops and animals were

immediately burned if they showed the slightest differences from what was considered of the

norm. But proof of how far they take this form of intolerance is clearly exhibited as they turn on

their own kind: humans. With this act, suspicions and fear is constant in their society. There are

those in desperation to root out those with differences to keep themselves ‘pure’, and those in

desperation to conceal their secrets. These two sides in Waknuk clash repeatedly- to result in

extreme consequences. Brought up with such a belief, David endures endless pressure to follow

the exact beliefs that his father has. Despite this, as he continues to grow and understand more

about how morally wrong Waknuk's concepts are, David's morals prevail against the pressure of

society. In the Chrysalids, Sophie, Aunt Harriet, and the Sealand woman are three important

women in David's life whose various situations influence his views and opinions on his society.

"I was abruptly perturbed - and considerably puzzled, too. A blasphemy was, as had

been impressed upon me often enough, a frightful thing. Yet there was nothing frightful about
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Sophie. She was simply an ordinary little girl - if a great deal more sensible and braver than most.

Yet, according to the Definition... Clearly there must be a mistake somewhere. Surely having

one very small toe extra - well, two very small toes, because I supposed there would be one to

match on the other foot - surely that couldn't be enough to make her 'hateful in the sight of

God...'? The ways of the world were very puzzling... "

- David's thoughts on Sophie; taken from The Chrysalids (pg. 14)

       This quote represents David's thoughts and confusion of the definition of blasphemy as

he had been taught- in comparison to the obvious normalcy that Sophie displayed. Sophie plays

the part in being the first woman to introduce David to a victim's point-of-view in a society run

such as Waknuk. In exposure to this alternate perspective, David is compelled to have second

thoughts about his original teachings. Amidst his turmoil, Sophie's relationship to David as a

close friend allows sentimental attachment to cause David to impulsively side with her

situation. Seeing Sophie's and her family's extreme effort in hiding Sophie's condition and fear of

being caught struck David (pg. 9-13). His sympathy to their predicament altered his previous

thoughts against deviations. Having a simple exception of a sixth toe, yet still otherwise being

completely normal at the same time, showed David how deviations are really just like everyone

else, and not that much different in any way. The fact that David was exposed to her perspective

in such an early point of his life, affected him in the way that it opened his mind to questions

concerning Waknuk's belief in the Definition for the future.
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'This is the third time. They'll take my baby away again like they took the others. I can't stand

that - not again. Henry will turn me out, I think. He'll find another wife, who can give him proper

children. There'll be nothing- nothing in the world for me - nothing. I came here hoping against

hope for sympathy and help. Emily is the only person who can help me. I - I can see now how

foolish I was to hope at all...'

-Aunt Harriet's plead and excerpt of her emotions; taken from The Chrysalids (pg. 71-72)

        The intense situation that David witnessed of Aunt Harriet's and his parents' conflict was

the second blow that affected David's thoughts. David had always held a fond affection for Aunt

Harriet as her personality was a huge contrast from her sister, David's mother, which might have

been a reason why the impact of her death had afflicted David so much. Aunt Harriet's death was

evidence as to the misery and results in a situation when one challenges the judgment of

the society. Aunt Harriet's defiance in her right to be unashamed of her inadequate attempts to

save her child proved her realization of the faults in Waknuk's religion. At the point where she

was about to leave and had hardened her resolve, the following quote showed how she did not

hold the same views as Waknuk, and demonstrated her disapproving opinions on how their

religion was carried out to such a degree as to cause a mother's pain. "'I shall pray,' she said. 'Yes,

I shall pray.' She paused, then she went on, her voice steady and harder: '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... And I shall pray Him, too, that the hearts of the self-

righteous may be broken...'"

-Aunt Harriet's retort; taken from The Chrysalids (pg. 73)
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Through the tragic event of her death, David becomes more conscious to the corruptness of his

society's religion, hidden under the facade of 'retaining purity'.

        The third influential woman that helped in shaping David's views, is a mysterious

foreigner known as 'The Sealand woman' in the Chrysalids. It is David's sister, Petra, who

acquaints David to another completely different society from Waknuk across the globe named:

Sealand (New Zealand). Sealand is a society where 'deviations' such as them are not just

accepted, but encouraged, honoured and respected. Informed of this new discovery, David

discerns just how narrow Waknuk's concepts are and how shut-out and stubborn they are to

disregard any differences or beliefs other than their own. In another aspect, when David

converses with the Sealand woman, the Sealand woman provides her blunt outlook on Waknuk's

self-destructive and 'ancient' system. (pg.182) Her strong opinion of Waknuk showed how all

societies hold their own opinions and beliefs resolutely, which proved to David that Waknuk's

principles are no excuse for all the inhumanity it has caused as they have not been ascertained to

be the truth yet.

        Sophie, Aunt Harriet and the Sealand woman are three women who are crucial to David's

life, as they expand David's views to permit him to comprehend the twisted and opinionated

society of Waknuk- which in turn, allows him to form his own opinions and beliefs. In each

perspective, David is provided with evidence against the unrighteous judgments of his society. In

Sophie's case, David learned how deviations are really just normal people who don't deserve

their branded treatment of cruelty. With Aunt Harriet, David witnessed the results of defying
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Waknuk`s principles and the view-point from a victim in desperation to find another way out. In

final, the Sealand woman introduces him to another society`s beliefs: their acceptation and even

encouragement for differences. The Sealand woman provides the final evidence in proving that

all societies have their own principles, which means that Waknuk`s precepts cannot be the only

perspective to be followed. The influence of these three women on David magnified his

approach on Waknuk`s religion, and revealed other directions that differ from Waknuk`s. As

quoted from the book, A Young Lady`s Mentorwritten by A Lady,

``Whatever may be the customs and laws of a country, women always give the tone to morals.

Whether slaves or free, they reign, because their empire is that of the affections. This influence,

however, is more or less salutary, according to the degree of esteem in which they are held:--they

make men what they are... A man takes counsel with his wife; he obeys his mother; he obeys her

long after she has ceased to live, and the ideas which he has received from her become principles

stronger even than his passions...``

the influence of women have always proven to be vital to the growth of one`s life and later


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