In The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, how are moral values instilled in Waknuk's citizens?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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There are three most prominent modes through which moral values are instilled in the citizens of Waknuk. One starts earliest with the youngest children. They learn to be terrified of the Blasphemies as threats of the Blasphemies are used to punish and control the smallest children. The Blasphemies are mutants who have been exiled to the Fringes, a desolate land beyond the Wild Country. In the Fringes, mutations occur with alarming proliferation because it received greater nuclear contamination during the Tribulation. The youngest children are taught that if they are not good and obedient to the values of Waknuk, they will have to fear the coming of the Blasphemies who sometimes invade to raid crops and livestock.

Another mode begins with older children. They are taught to memorize and recite the "Definition of Man" and portions from the Repentances and the Bible. These concur with the slogans and mottoes that are hung on walls as decorations or burned into the wood of houses as reminders of what Waknukians believe is the right moral and religious path. As David says:

Frequent references to these texts had made me familiar with the words long before I was able to read, ... I knew them by heart, ... and a number of others about Offences and Blasphemies.

The "Definition of Man," which David recites to help him understand the gravity and import of Sophie's six toes, reads:

And each leg shall be jointed twice and shall have one foot and each foot 5 toes. And any creature that shall seem to be human, but is not formed thus, is not human. It is a blasphemy against the true image of God, and hateful in the sight of God.

The final most prominent mode used to instill the values of Waknuk in its citizens is the purges of deviations. When an animal, crop, or human appears in the Waknuk community with a deviation from the definitions of sacred life forms, like the "Definition of Man," there is a purge. Whole fields will be burned if there is any sign of deviation in the crop. Animals will be slaughtered if there is any sign of mutation causing deviation. People are rejected as nonhuman and exiled, with babies taken away by the time they are one month old. On the night that David is severely punished for aimlessly suggesting it would be nice to have a third arm while trying to remove a splinter form his finger, he dreams of his father burning crops to purge deviations as he often had done with mutated crops--only this time his father was purging Sophie.

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