The Chrysalids


The title “The Chrysalids” signifies that it is a novel about change. The word “chrysalid” is related to the word “chrysalis”, which means “the form which butterflies, moths, and most other insects assume when they change from the state of larva or caterpillar and before they arrive at their winged or perfect state”. Or in simpler terms, it is the state where the caterpillar does most, if not all, of its change into a butterfly. Change can happen anywhere, whether it be in a physical form, such as the caterpillar turning into a butterfly, or evolution of entire species; a mental state, for instance a deeper comprehension of an emotion, or an education towards acceptance and understanding; or in a social environment, for example the abolishment of slavery and the non-discriminatory laws. Change is almost inevitable, fore it is the driving force of life. With out change life could not adapt to its surroundings and survive. If change were to stop, then life would become meaningless. The Earth would be the same if there was life with no change, than if there was no life at all. Generally when people ponder about the notion change, they think about a process where a thing transforms into a better version of itself. While change is usually associated with evolution, it can sometimes be the complete opposite. Change can happen for the worse, though it is seldom seen. With life comes change, and though in The Chrysalids some change is not for the better, character, environment and the community all slowly develop into something else.


David changes a lot throughout the novel The Chrysalids. Many things in his life have shaped him, but the most significant is Sophie and the many promises he made as a young boy. The caterpillar stage for David is when he was a young boy. He goes into his chrysalis when he meets Sophie since that is the day his mind begins to change. Sophie was David’s best friend, and he soon found out that she was in fact a mutant because of her miniscule sixth toe. David, being a young boy, did not think much of the mutation. Although David was raised to believe that mutants were a frightful thing, he thought that “there was nothing frightful about Sophie” (pg. 14) because he got to know Sophie before he knew about the mutation. He thought that if Sophie, “an ordinary girl” (pg. 14), were to be “hateful in the sight of God” (pg. 13) than “there must be a mistake somewhere” (pg. 14) in his religion. Sophie’s mother made David promise not to tell anyone about Sophie’s sixth toe. Sophie’s mother said that if anybody were to find out about Sophie “they’d be terribly unkind to her” (pg. 12). David knew that they would be unkind to her because of her sixth toe, but he did not comprehend why so many people would hate such a little toe, and how such a little toe can cause so much anxiety. When he was a little older he found out that he was also “abnormal” because of his telepathic powers. Once while sending thought shapes he was caught by his uncle, Axel, and was asked what he was doing. David briefly explained what he was doing and the whole concept of thought shapes. Luckily, Uncle Axel was David’s friend and was unsure of the image of man. Uncle Axel, knowing the kind of society he and David live in, makes David promise not to tell anyone else about his gift. Uncle Axel says to David:



I want you to keep [your thought shapes] secret. I want you to promise that you will never, never tell anyone else what you have just told me – never. It’s very important: later on you’ll understand better how important it is.(pg. 30)



Just after that promise, uncle Axel makes David promise that he will “never do it out loud anymore”(pg. 31) so that the risk of being caught is reduced. Through these promises to Sophie’s mother and Uncle Axel, David becomes aware that he is different and as he grows from a boy into a man, he realizes that he must hide his thought shapes from society so