The Chrysalids

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The Chrysalids-John Wyndham


John Wyndham was born in England, on July 10, 1903. When he was growing up, he went to a series of boarding schools because his parents were separated. He then attended an advanced co- educational school until he reached the age of eighteen. After he left school, Wyndham studied farming for awhile, then "crammed" to write the examinations for Oxford University.

Finally, in 1929, Wyndham picked up a copy of an American magazine called Amazing Stories, and became very interested in science fiction. Not long after that a series of stories under the name of John Beynon began to appear in Amazing Stories, and in another publication called Wonder Stories. He wrote English science fiction stories under the names "John Beynon Harris," "John Beynon," and "Lucas Parkes," as well as John Wyndham. By 1937, he was being called the best, living British science fiction writer.

Wyndham's work in science fiction is interesting in its emphasis. He does not generally concentrate on amusing the reader with strange inventions of technology from a bewildering future. The settings he employs for the future are logical, identifiable extensions of the world of today. His consuming interest lies in speculation about human nature and human behaviour. This would account for his attention to customs and moral codes displayed in the different societies in his books. Thus, time and again he points out the hypocrisy, bigotry and ignorance which are so often a part of our social life, and he stresses that changing conditions demand new ways, new customs and new codes of conduct.

Wyndham died in 1969.

Novels include: The Day of the Triffids (1959); The Kraken Wakes (1953); The Chrysalids (1955); and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). Several of these were turned into successful movies.

The Chrysalids

Science fiction demands a certain suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. For example, light-year speed is explained away by the term "space warp" or "warp speed", and the reader accepts this. (Cowboy stories don't explain how to run a ranch either!) But generally, science fiction has a healthy respect for fact.

The Chrysalids maintains this respect. It is not at all "way-out" science fiction. There are only two assumptions: (1) that a nuclear holocaust took place that destroyed civilization as we know it, and (2) that certain members of Waknuk can communicate through telepathy.

Both these factors are at least scientific possibilities. The threat of Tribulation, although we don't call it that, needs no explanation for today's reader. As far as the group's ability to communicate telepathically is concerned, some major universities are doing research in parapsychology, and although there is no scientific proof that telepathy exists, the possibility remains.

The Chrysalids is a story of the future. Most stories of the future fall into one of three categories:

1. total destruction of a civilization

2. total redemption

3. or a combination of both

This novel looks beyond the pessimistic future shrouded in the "mushroom cloud" into the time of reconstruction after such an event. Following "tribulation" we are shown a world of the frontier. As North America has moved recently from the world of the frontier we look at our past as a quaint heritage, a stage in the development of our civilization which has gone forever, except in Hollywood and made for TV movies. In The Chrysalids the frontier has returned and the people are beginning again. They have emerged from the chaos of an after-the-holocaust world and have reached a stage of organized community life, farmlands, and a strict and stern inflexible morality based on a dark, incomprehensible fear of an unknown past. The people of this frontier do not look towards a new future, but instead have an all consuming passion for stability. Things must not change. The past of the "Old People" must be resurrected and preserved. The...
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