John Wyndham’s 1955 novel “The Chrysalids,” sometimes called “Re-birth,” is a post-apocalyptic, futuristic coming-of-age story set on the island of Labrador. The novel centers around the Labradorian society which, following an unspecified past event known only as Tribulation, has become incredibly insular and isolated. The Labradorians preserve their society by destroying any creatures or plants that display even the slightest bit of genetic variation. This approach to preservation causes significant conflict between the culture’s leaders and the young protagonist, David Storm.
Labradorians versus "Blasphemies"
In the future society of Labrador, the government adheres to a strict form of Christian fundamentalism that views any and all genetic variation as a blasphemy against God. These include things like tailless cats or children with six toes. In this dystopian society, the Labradorians are at constant war with these so-called “Blasphemies,” systematically killing both people and animals that show any sort of genetic variation, and burning plants or crops that are slightly different than normal.
David versus Labradorians
As the narrator and main character David Storm encounters and accepts different folks with slight genetic variations, he realizes the strange evilness of the Labradorian society’s efforts to rid themselves of variations. For example, David’s best friend is a little girl with six toes on each foot named Sophie Wender. After David himself is “outed” as having telepathic abilities, he flees to a nearby island to avoid the vicious persecution of the Labradorian government.
Tradition versus Advancement
Incipient in the Labradorians’ conflict with Blasphemies and David’s conflict with the Labradorians is the thematic conflict between tradition and advancement. The Labradorians hold onto to the strict and traditional view symbolized by their hatred of genetic mutation, something they view as an abomination rather than the possibility of advancement. David, on the other hand, and other people his own age, want Labrador to advance and leave behind the brutal tradition of killing people who are slightly genetically different.
Exploration versus Preservation
Another thematic conflict revealed in David’s battle with the Labradorians is the conflict between exploration and preservation. As with the conflict between tradition and advancement, this conflict is generational. David and the younger generation of Labrador are interested in exploring the various islands to the north and south of Labrador, while the older generation of Labradorians are afraid to visit these locations. Ultimately, because of his “blasphemous” telepathic abilities, David is forced to flee Labrador for the nearby Sealand, thus fulfilling his desire to explore the nearby islands.
- The Chrysalids; John Wyndham
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