The Chrysalids by John Wyndham: Book Summary

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The Beginning: Importance of Keeping Secrets

As a young boy, David undergoes several experiences that make him and his group realize that their well being is at risk. As early as when David met Sophie and discovered that her six toes made her different from normal people and prone to punishment, did he realize that he and his group would also be considered different. For when he promised Mrs. Wender that he would keep the issue of Sophie’s six toes a secret, he came to appreciate the promise. He began to comprehend the fact that his and his group’s abnormal telepathic abilities could possibly place them in the same danger as Sophie– being rooted out and expelled or killed for being a “deviant.” Further, when David learns of know of Aunt Harriet’s plight and her suicide, he becomes very frightened, since it reinforces the fact that he and his group are indeed in great potential danger.

Power & Danger

The group’s main hardships take place when they grow older and when Petra, a new member of the telepathic group, is introduced. It is evident with Petra that she is much more powerful in terms of telepathic projection, but correspondingly, it means that the group is even more susceptible to danger.

For instance, when Petra projects her fear as she struggles in the river, it literally pulls David and Rosalind to her. However, it raises suspicion and confusion among those who witness such a strange occurrence, because they did not hear anything. In particular, when Petra’s pony is attacked in the forest and she projects her fear thoughts, it pulls the entire telepathic group to the scene.

Unfortunately, Jerome Skinner happens upon them before they could disperse and asks many questions on suspicion, wondering how the group could have arrived in one spot, not hearing any cries himself. Unable to convince Jerome Skinner, he remains suspicious.

To make matters even more difficult, Anne, a member of the group, plans to marry a norm, Alan Ervin. The group knows that she is making a mistake, but are unsuccessful in convincing her to change her mind. For, Alan is one who informs the inspector about any deviants, as in the case of Sophie. Therefore, if Anne makes any slips, Alan would be quick to respond. Soon, suspicion grows to such an extent that an informant for the inspector, Joe Darley, begins asking questions about David and Rosalind. At this point, Michael, the leader of the telepaths, begins to discuss courses of action the group should take to escape, would the need arise. It is not until the capture of Sally and Katherine of the telepathic group that Michael’s plan come into play. From here on in, David, Rosalind, and Petra flee for their safety, from Waknuk to the Fringes, where they persevere to overcome their difficulties.

Persevering to the End

With many hardships along their path, the telepaths persevere, managing to outdo any opposition. In the case of Anne, for instance, the group does not act directly to stop her marrying Alan. Instead the group is patient and careful, not sharing plans of action regarding Anne telepathically, or attracting unwanted attention.

Moreover, realizing that Petra’s telepathic powers are considerably powerful, the group, David in particular, begin training and teaching Petra to produce more gentle thought-shapes. Petra’s thought-shapes are intensely powerful when projected and make it difficult for the group to project their own, instead pulling them towards her.

From this point on, the risk of getting caught grows to such an extent that David, Rosalind, and Petra flee from Waknuk and make their way to the Fringes, which proves to be their most perilous ordeal yet. The main event that initiates the escape is the capture of Sally and Katherine, members of the group, for interrogation. This is a hardship in of itself, yet Katherine perseveres through the torture, not revealing much information to her interrogators. Further, Michael and Mark contribute to the escape by joining the search group, revealing their plans of action to David and Rosalind, and misleading the search group at the same time.

Despite all the effort gone into escaping Waknuk safely, David, Rosalind, and Petra are captured by the Fringe people and sent to the “spider man.” On being separated from Rosalind and Petra, David is intent on getting back to them, and is helped in doing so by Sophie. By the end, however, the remaining telepaths are recompensed for their perseverance when the Sealand lady arrives and rescues them. David, Rosalind, and Petra immediately fly with the Sealand lady to Sealand, while Michael and Rachel stay in Waknuk for the meanwhile, hoping to join the rest at Sealand soon.

This post is part of the series: The Chrysalids Study Guide

This study guide covers The Chrysalids, a unique young-adult novel set in a fantasy world.

  1. Summary of The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
  2. Themes in The Chrysalids
  3. The Chrysalids Study Questions and Answers