The Chrysalids Essay, Research Paper
Question 7. : Examine the role played by, at least, two minor characters in the presentation of the novel’s themes.
In the novel The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, several minor characters are presented to help convey the themes of the text. Alan Irvin, Sophie Wender, and Axel Morton are several of the minor characters, who are presented in the novel, that assist in the communication of themes to the reader. These characters help develop themes such as intolerance, and the nature of a closed society. John Wyndham also employs various literary techniques including personalisation, and development of character depth, which are imposed upon the characters to better convey the themes of the novel.
Axel Morton is a well-travelled person who has seen much more than most of the people who lived in Waknuk. He is one of the few in Waknuk society who had ventured down the coast, and in doing so he saw things, which made him question the religious indoctrination, which occurred in Waknuk. Axel questions the so-called “True Image” which is preached by the orthodox members of Waknuk society as his travels showed him just how many apparently deviational people thought that they were in the “True Image” in reference to the “Old People”. “Whether they have seven fingers, or four arms, or hair all over, or six breasts, or whatever it is that’s wrong with them- think that their type is the true pattern of the Old People, and anything different is a deviation”. This quote from Axel Morton shows that no one could really be sure of what the “True Image” was, because as stated in the novel, no texts from when the “Old People” were around stipulated what was or wasn’t deviational. Axel Morton had a much different value system to the other people of Waknuk, and did not believe that deviations were as bad as they were made out to be. Axel Morton reiterates the theme of the nature of a closed society, as he is one of the few members of the Waknuk community, who has alternative knowledge to that which is preached by members of the town in which he lives. The theme of the nature of a closed society refers to the fact that people who live in such communities aren’t able to question what they are taught as they are they are deprived of the knowledge which travelling and other people can teach them.
When reading the novel it is clear that Axel identifies with the text’s criticisms of intolerance. Axel disagrees with the intolerance toward things different from the normal, as he himself is not physically the same as others in Waknuk. Axel Morton however is not a deviant because his abnormality was obtained after birth in a sailing accident. “He was standing in the customary way, with much of his weight upon the thick stick he used because his leg had been wrongly set at sea”. This quote reveals Axel Morton’s difference from the norm, and although it is not a huge variation, he still had to cope with that difference, and his inability to perform certain tasks that others could do. Although this difference from the norm was not deviational, he was still able to sympathise with true deviants, as he knew what it was like to be different to others around him. His difference form the norm was not the only reason for which he sympathised with deviants, but his knowledge also of other places and people, allowed him to have an open mind about certain viewpoints, which others did not. Axel Morton as a character is used to convey the theme of intolerance in the novel, in the sense that he disagrees with the intolerance of others around him, and criticises the intolerant beliefs upon which the society is based.
Sophie Wender is a minor character in the novel who also conveys the theme of intolerance. Sophie Wender is a deviant in the sense that she had six toes instead of the normal five. For this very small deviation she is completely ostracised from the society in which she lives and banished to the fringes. Wyndham effectively uses David Strorm the narrator of the novel, to positively reinforce Sophie’s plight by allowing the two to become friends. He does this so David will positively enforce Sophie’s case and thus make the reader sympathise with her. By allowing the reader to sympathise with her plight through personalisation, and developing character depth, the theme of intolerance is emphatically conveyed to the reader. “I said that is my whip”. This quote which refers to Joseph Strorm using the Inspectors whip on David because he had concealed Sophie, who was a deviant. “It was Mary who came, and made little comforting noises as she dressed my back,” says David Strorm.
Both these quotes assist in conveying the theme of intolerance by making the reader sympathise with David and therefore Sophie because of his great efforts to help her escape.
The Alan Irvin character relates to the theme in the novel of the nature of a closed society. Alan is a good example of how people will believe what they are told if no other answer is available. He believed in the “True Image” and that deviations were the devil because he was told such things were so. Because he lived in the closed off society of Waknuk, no information from other areas was available to allow Alan to question the religious indoctrination placed upon him. “There was a gleam in his eye which I did not like” is a quote from David, which refers to Alan realising that Sophie was deviational. Alan Irvin, after finding out that Sophie was in fact a deviant immediately informed the authorities of Waknuk about his find. This total absence of compassion on Alan’s part was due to his steadfast beliefs that deviants were the devil. Alan however did not decide for himself that deviants were the devil but was rather led to believe that they were, because the adults around him told him it was so, and he had no information to dispute it. This reinforces the fact that a closed society breeds ignorance, as the people with power are able to preach whatever they like, and cannot be challenged due to the lack of outside information or knowledge. The character of Alan Irvin helps convey the theme of the nature of a closed society by revealing his lack of sensitivity or compassion to deviants due to his myopic belief system, and his ignorance of outside knowledge.
Wyndham uses the minor characters in the novel to convey the themes, which are represented in the text. Although the characters are in fact minor, their role in the conveyance of the novel’s themes is crucial, as they help support the main characters presentation of themes. Wyndham successfully employs the use of personalisation, development of character depth, and character sympathy in order to present themes through the minor characters of the novel. Through use of the minor characters, not only specific themes are conveyed, but the minor characters of the text also enable Wyndham to develop his themes from a number of perspectives.