Reading Guides: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Each month I’ll be posting points discussed at the my book club for those who are curious about what we talk about ( including points made prior, but not discussed) or need a reading guide for the book for their own clubs. You’ll find a list of all reading guides on the reading guides page. You’re welcome to use it and to adapt the questions to your own social group use, but if you do and have a website or blog please link back using the following code.

September’s book was The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and I’ll be posting a review of that sometime this week. As an extra I have included a map of Waknuk from Literature Units. If you click on the link you’ll be taken to the map shown and there’s also an option to see two more maps.

Family

  • Why do you think Joseph Strorm is such a zealot when it comes to the ‘true image’ and eradicating deviants? Do you believe it has something to do with the family history?
  • What role do you think Uncle Axel’s experiences with the outside world play when it comes to his open mindedness?
  • Taking into account that David considers Axel one of his best friends and that he is really the only adult David confides in, do you feel that Axel as a character is too contrived? Why or why not?
  • What difference do you think it makes for David to have Axel to confide in?
  • What do you think was wrong with Aunt Harriet’s baby?Do you think David’s mother should have agreed to help Aunt Harriet?
  • What do you think it says about Aunt Harriet if she’s gone to Joseph Strorm’s house to ask such a favour?

Children

  • Near the beginning David says that children learn bits and pieces without the pattern; only later can they fit the parts together. Do you think this is true of children in general?
  • What kind of experience do you feel David (or anyone for that matter) needs in order to learn to see how the social system affects the individual caught up in it?
  • What do you think makes Uncle Axel or Aunt Harriet different from David’s father?
  • What are your thoughts on Wyndham telling his story through children? Do you think the message or points reached would still be the same if he had used mostly adults?
  • What do you make of the Great Horses that Angus Morton owns being government approved yet Sophie, and David keeping her a secret, is frowned upon?

Sexism and Discrimination

  • When deviants are found they are sterilised and banished to The Fringes, yet later in the story it seems only the women are sterilised. Women also seem to be the only ones to blame for the birth of a deviant. Knowing that The Chrysalids was written in 1955, do you think the bigotry towards women is part of the story only or possibly influenced by society at the time?
  • What role do you think sexism plays in the story? Does it add to it, detract from it, or do you feel it doesn’t really make a difference?
  • When Anne is getting married the Chrysalids discuss communication with the villagers and insinuate that villagers are dumber, lesser beings because they use words only. What impression does this give you about the Chrysalids?
  • Later when the children meet the Zealander she tries communicating to them that they should spare the villagers because they don’t understand, and yet she doesn’t seem to have any compunction with wiping out another species or other people if they’re different. Do you find her views any better then the arrogance of the villagers?
  • Do you think that the new society, the Zealanders, will be any different in their attitudes to others compared to the old society, the villagers?
  • How does the utopian new race of Zealanders, Petra, David, and Rosalind fit with the rest of the book’s attitudes about tolerance?
  • How does the book, or how can anyone for that matter, reconcile tolerance of difference and change with the fact that a new world might replace the current one?

Further Questions

  • What do you think the message of the story is? Do you feel it even has a message?
  • Do you feel Wyndham portrays or favours one group more so then any other? Does he paint one in a more sympathetic light or do you feel that everyone is more neutral? Is there really bad guys vs. good guys in this story?
  • How do you feel towards the people of The Fringes as the story progresses? Do you feel they are portrayed differently as the story goes on?
  • Out of the three groups – the villagers, the fringes, and the Zealanders – who do you think is portrayed far more positively and why?
  • Out of the three groups which one do you feel is the far more negative?
  • Is there one group you favour more then the others? One you identify with more then the rest?

3 thoughts on “Reading Guides: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

    • I don’t think I got to ask all of them, but quite a few. It was a pretty interesting discussion and great to hear everyone’s point of view. I wish you had of been able to come too 😦 but next time hopefully you will be!

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