Core Novel: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

  • Complete Chapter Questions and Activities based on the reading
  • Complete an Important Word Book based on the reading
  • Complete all group activities based on the reading
  • Write a literary essay
  • Complete a cumulative activity
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of reading on a unit test

Essay Information File:

Cumulative Activity:

The Chrysalids Cumulative Activity

Chose one of the following activities:

1. The Fringes of Our World: Who are the marginalized people of the world today? You will create a research project examining how people are pushed to the fringes in today’s world. This may take the form of a poster, power point presentation, or feature article. Consider a specific group of people, for example, the homeless, Native Canadians, or those marginalized because of their culture or religion. You must include a list of works cited which tracks your research (Mr. Hamelin will help you with this). Your objective is to inform the general public of this issue. Evaluation: depends upon the student’s choice of project.

2. Tribulation!: Create a research project which reports on the Cold War and/or the issue of nuclear arms in today’s world. This may take the form of a research paper, poster, or brochure. You may consider both those directly involved in the building up of arms and those indirectly affected by this issue. You must include a list of works cited which tracks your research (Mr. Hamelin will help you with this). Your objective is to inform the general public of the dangers of this issue. Evaluation: depends upon the student’s choice of project.

3. Utopia!: Design a utopia–a perfect place to live. There are two components to this activity. The first is a written description of this place. What is it like? How is it different from our imperfect world? Consider here how not just your own life would be improved, but also the lives of others even less fortunate than you. Also consider how the government will be run, how schools will operate, and what everyday life would be like for the average citizen. The second part of this activity is visual. Here you will create a visual representation of this new and perfect world. This could take the form of a drawing, painting, or three dimensional representation. Your objective is to communicate your ideas to your peers. Evaluation: A Descriptive Writing rubric will be used for the first part. A Visual Product rubric will be used for the second part.

4. Waknuk Museum: Create 4 or more artifacts that might represent life in Waknuk. These are to be used in a display on Waknuk in the Museum of Man in Sealand. For each item, you must provide an explanation of its importance. Your objects need not be entirely made by you, but do not simply print out Google images of items. Your are setting up a real museum display. Objective: to inform the people of Sealand about what life in Waknuk was like. Your perspective is one of the group members. Evaluation: Media product rubric.

5. Photo Essay: Create a photo essay for a magazine article which illustrates your vision of your world. You may do this from the perspective that the world is, in fact, a utopia; or you may see it as a dystopia. Perhaps you view the world as being a little of both possibilities. The most important catch is that these photos must be taken by the student. You may use a photo editing program to manipulate them, but the photos must be take by you. You must use at least 4 photos and write an explanation for each. Your objective is to communicate your perception of the world through photographs. Evaluation: Media Product rubric.

6. Escape from Waknuk: Write 4 journal entries in the voice of either Michael or Rachel which outlines their escape from Waknuk and attempt to reach Sealand. Consider those who may have helped them (Uncle Axel, Rosalind’s mother) as well as those who may have been against them. Consider also whether or not they will be successful. These can be handwritten or created using an appropriate font. Evaluation: Writing in Role rubric.

The Chrysalids online text!!! If you forget your novel at school, you can do your reading here! This means, no more "I forgot my book at school" excuse! Chrysalids

Here is a documentary about Science Fiction of the time Wyndham wrote the novel. If you double click it, you can watch all 6 parts for the complete film:

Or you can go here to see the list: Watch the Skies

The bulk of the information contained on this page is borrowed from educator Peter Loewensteyn’s literature unit for the novel.

The Chapter Questions and Activities are in the following .odt file. If for any reason you cannot open this file, please send me a message so that I can get you the questions in an alternate fashion.

Vocabulary: Each student will be responsible for completing an important word booklet which Mr.. Hamelin will provide you with.

Group Activities: The group activities are found on this file:

Chrysalid = The pupa of insects that undergo a metamorphosis, eg. butterflies, moths.

Science Fiction = a broad genre of fiction that often involves speculation based on current or future science or technology.

John Wyndham: John Wyndham was born in England, on July 10, 1903. In 1929, Wyndham picked up a copy of an American magazine called Amazing Stories, and became very interested in science fiction. Not long after that a series of stories under the name of John Beynon began to appear in Amazing Stories, and in another publication called Wonder Stories. He wrote English science fiction stories under the names "John Beynon Harris," "John Beynon," and "Lucas Parkes," as well as JohnWyndham. By 1937, he was being called the best, living British science fiction writer. Wyndham's work in science fiction is interesting in its emphasis. He does not generally concentrate on amusing the reader with strange inventions of technology from a bewildering future. The settings he employs for the future are logical, identifiable extensions of the world of today. His consuming interest lies in speculation about human nature and human behaviour. Wyndham died in 1969.

The Chrysalids as Science Fiction

Science fiction demands a certain suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. For example, light-year speed is explained away by the term "space warp" or "warp speed", and the reader accepts this. (Cowboy stories don't explain how to run a ranch either!) But generally, science fiction has a healthy respect for fact.

The Chrysalids maintains this respect. It is not at all "way-out" science fiction. There are only two assumptions: (1) that a nuclear holocaust took place that destroyed civilization as we know it, and (2) that certain members of Waknuk can communicate through telepathy.

Both these factors are at least scientific possibilities. The threat of Tribulation, although we don't call it that, needs no explanation for today's reader. As far as the group's ability to communicate telepathically is concerned, some major universities are doing research in parapsychology, and although there is no scientific proof that telepathy exists, the possibility remains.

The Chrysalids is a story of the future. Most stories of the future fall into one of three categories: 1. total destruction of a civilization; 2. total redemption; 3. or a combination of both. This novel looks beyond the pessimistic future shrouded in the "mushroom cloud" into the time of reconstruction after such an event. Following "tribulation" we are shown a world of the frontier. As North America has moved recently from the world of the frontier we look at our past as a quaint heritage, a stage in the development of our civilization which has gone forever, except in Hollywood and made for TV movies. In The Chrysalids the frontier has returned and the people are beginning again. They have emerged from the chaos of an after-the-holocaust world and have reached a stage of organized community life, farmlands, and a strict and stern inflexible morality based on a dark, incomprehensible fear of an unknown past. The people of this frontier do not look towards a new future, but instead have an all consuming passion for stability. Things must not change. The past of the "Old People" must be resurrected and preserved. The scattered communities of Labrador and the Waknuks are unconsciously creating a "fossil world" as the Sealand woman maintains. Paradoxically, then, Waknuk is a society of the future with a setting from the past.

This community's obsession against change can be answered by the scientific realities of the present. Physical mutations can be produced by intense doses of radiation and the people of Waknuk have a basis for their fear that physical conformity could break down. The winds which from time to time blow in from the "badlands" to the south west are winds of change in grim physical reality. Out of their fear of physical change, a severe conformity to the "true image" has developed, a set of beliefs which stifles the human mind and much worse, the human spirit. The beliefs of the people in Waknuk are anti-intellectual and try to eliminate both logic and imagination. All this is done in the name of God who, in this case, is used as an excuse, a shield to hide behind for purposes of persecution.

Humans have not survived because they are physically superior to other creatures but because of their minds. If the mind stagnates so will the human race. This is the message of the novel. Why the author felt it necessary to make this statement is clear. If the human race acts with indiscretion, its fate, or the fate of the few possible survivors, might be a life in "the fringes" or Sealand. We cannot, however, be sure that there will be a choice.

The word "chrysalid" is a scientific term meaning the state into which the larvae of most insects pass before becoming adults. In general usage, the word can mean a sheltered state or a stage of growth. Thus, as with all good titles, the reader of The Chrysalids is left to extend this definition so as to apply it in an appropriate way to the novel itself.

Post-Apocalyptic Literature: In Ancient Greek, “dystopia” means literally “bad place.” In fact, a dystopia is considered an anti-utopia and is usually presented as a perfect society by at least a few of the characters (often villains). Usually the societal goal was, at one point or another, to create a perfect society, but a fatal flaw in that society was overlooked, leading to an oppressive state where individuality, self-expression, and civil liberties have been squashed. The key feature to a post-apocalyptic novel is that a cataclysmic event has happened—either within the narrative or buried deeply in the world’s history—and the novel illustrates an exploration of what comes after.

Check out this flow chart examination of the various categories of the speculative fiction genre.

The Chrysalids Setting

The society of Waknuk has survived a nuclear war. The people have, however, only a dim memory of that period and refer to it as Tribulation, a time during which mankind had to pay for its sins. Although the war happened a long time ago, radiation still contaminates the living world outside the small community. Whenever any evidence of contamination is found within Waknuk, the inhabitants immediately eliminate the offending plant, animal, or...... person.
The society of Waknuk resembles what we know as the beginning of the eighteenth century. It is based on agriculture, with little evidence of any industrialization. Like eighteenth-century England or North America, the people are very provincial in their outlook; their lives are controlled by a rigid code of morality, and religious beliefs are repressive and often cruel.
The people of Waknuk justify these standards by referring to Tribulation , a period in the past when God's wrath was visited upon His people or, more specifically, the Old People.
The Old People are clearly twentieth century society, the readers of the novel. Frequent references are made to airplanes, automobiles and other twentieth-century inventions.
Strangely, however, the Old People who are held up as an ideal were the ones who were punished by Tribulation which was, in all probability, a nuclear holocaust. The effect of radiation is the cause of all the deviations that afflict David's society. Paradoxically, then, Waknuk is a society of the future with a setting from the past. Sealand, on the other hand, has escaped Tribulation to some degree, and has advanced beyond the level of the twentieth century, both in physical setting and in outlook.

The actual geographic setting of Waknuk is Labrador, Newfoundland. Sealand is, in fact, new Zealand. Although both Labrador and New Zealand escape nuclear destruction, the similarity end there. Whereas Sealand is industrial and progressive, Waknuk is agricultural and regressive or, at best stagnant.
The middle of Labrador is affected by the nuclear holocaust to the extent that its climate is now temperate and suited to agricultural development. The farming appears to be somewhat communal, with one large farm having a great number of dependent workers. Houses are built close together for mutual protection.
Although the immediate area is fairly free of deviations, the further one goes in a southerly direction, the more the abnormalities increase. In those areas there is little control of nature by man, and all types of deviant form of life thrive.
The Fringes, which follow the Wild Country as one moves further south, contains practically no normal forms of life as we know them, and beyond this belt is a vast area known as the Badlands, where the worst results of radiation are found. In the some areas nothing grows at all; everything is black char or even polished glass. Evidence in the novel indicates that the Badlands are areas of what was once southern Canada and the United States.


The single, dominant fact of life in Waknuk, as David learns in his lessons in Ethics, is the process of climbing back into the grace of God. Tribulation has been a punishment, like expulsion from Eden, the Flood and so on, and the road back to God's favour is not an easy one.
Since there is only one true path and, since this is determined by learned writings such as Nicholson's Repentances, only the church and lay authorities could properly rule on what is right and proper. Anything that deviates from what they say is normal has to be destroyed, for it was not only a temptation leading away from the true path, it was, also, an insult directed at God. Above all, mankind's greatest duty is to see that the human form is kept true to the divine pattern.
For guidance, the people of Waknuk could turn to the Bible, which has survived Tribulation but, more often, they turn to Nicholson's Repentances. This is a series of lessons written during the age of barbarism, just after Tribulation, and it is the the only place where the True Image is described. Consequently, this volume is both a rule book and a justification for the stern morality of Waknuk.
The normal factors that influence an agricultural community are minor in relation to the power of religion. Even marriage is affected, for a husband may turn out his wife if she produces three consecutive deviant children. Because it is so dominant, little else but religion penetrates David's existence as a child.