In John Wyndham's The Chrysalids, what does David do when he faces a situation he does not want to deal with? Swallow his opinions and go with the flow? Or speak his mind, and take charge?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Perhaps the most vivid example of how David deals with difficulties he is confronted with in John Wyndham's The Chrysalids is when he and the other telepaths stand on the brink of discovery by Waknuk.

It starts when Anne (one of the telepaths) marries Alan, a "norm." Alan, like Waknuk society, abhors (perhaps for a price, it is suggested) any form of mutation. This fanaticism is frightening. It is Alan who first discovers David with Sophie. He sees the wet imprint of her foot on a rock near the water where David and Sophie have been fishing. To save Sophie from being captured, David attacks Alan.

[Alan] broke off suddenly. I looked up and saw that he was staring at something beside me. I turned quickly. On the flat rock was a footprint, still undried. Sophie had rested one foot there as she bent over to tip her catch into the jar. The mark was still damp enough to show the print of all six toes clearly. I kicked over the jar...obliterating the footprint, but I knew...that the harm had been done...he had turned and was standing looking along the bank towards the point where Sophie had disappeared into the bushes.

I ran up the stone and flung myself on him.

It is clear that Alan intends to find out who the girl with six toes is. He has no intention of keeping this information to himself, and we see by David's actions that he is not one to sit around and wait to see what happens.

Later in the story, Alan marries Anne (secretly a telepath). The reader learns that Alan got information from his wife before she killed herself, perhaps for telling her secrets about the others. So some people know about David and his friends.

'I told you it was a bad thing to let [Anne] marry that fellow. There's a type of woman who isn't content until she's made herself some man's slave and doormat—put herself completely in his power. That's the kind we was.'

'You're not—you don't mean she told Alan about herself?...'

'She did,' [Axel] nodded. 'She did more than that. She told him about all of you.'...

'You can't be sure of that...'

'...Maybe she didn't intend to. Maybe it was only herself she told him about...And maybe he had to beat the names of the rest of you out of her, but he knew all right...'

This segment introduces the element of fear that David and his friends must face. Then Michael speaks to David to prepare him for the risks before them. Michael breaks them into two groups. David will be responsible for Rosalind, Petra and himself. Michael explains that while the older ones might be able to bluff their way out of hard questions, Petra is too young to know how to carry it off. Her fate would be instantly sealed.

They must not get hold of her...If there's any sign of interest in her it'll be better to cut your losses and get her away...It'll be your job, David, to see that she isn't taken for questioning—at any cost. If you have to kill someone to prevent it, then you must...if they move at all, they'll be doing it to exterminate us...

'If worst comes to worst, and you can't save Petra, it would be kinder to kill her than let her go to sterilization and banishment to the Fringes...You understand?...

When I thought of little Petra...I agreed...

Starting with young David's attack of Alan to protect Sophie, and now with a more mature David's agreement to kill another person—or even Petra to save her from suffering—David proves he's a "take charge" kind of person who could never sit quietly, mouth shut and opinion hidden.


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