How is satire used in The Chrysalids by John Wyndham?Can anyone explain to me how satire is used in The Chrysalids? I know satire uses wit to indicate a change needed, but I don't have any...

How is satire used in The Chrysalids by John Wyndham?

Can anyone explain to me how satire is used in The Chrysalids? I know satire uses wit to indicate a change needed, but I don't have any examples. Also, doesn't satire use humour? Nowhere in the book did I really feel the urge to luagh.

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One instance of satire in The Chrysalids occurs in Chapter 4 when we meet Rosalind's father, Uncle Angus Morton, who is an infamous character who essentially scorns the religious laws, which Magistrate Strorm unflinchingly upholds, while adhering to them just enough to stay out of trouble. This incident involving a horse also contains verbal and situational irony--strong components of satire--and is in fact an incidence of Morton laughing at Magistrate Strorm, although we may not laugh out loud, Morton is laughing at Strorm.

What occurs is that Morton buys a government-approved genetically bred horse that is of above average proportions and strength. Morton doesn't boast about the horse being a government hybrid breed, he only boasts about the horse's unusual proportions.This is done intentionally to goad Strorm and antagonize him into making a fool of himself, as Morton knows he will do.

Once an event occurred that Morton has no intention of letting Strorm forget and which is a continuing source of ridicule for Morton of Strorm's dogmatic, unthinking adherence to the rule of religion. Strorm had once encountered a cat with no tail and, believing it to be a Blasphemy, had done away with it only to discover that it was a valuable government approved breed.

The satire in both of these situations is that Strorm's over-zealous beliefs cause him to act like a fool and prove by his actions just how wrong-headed Waknuk's rule by religion is. In this instance, Wyndham uses ridicule in satire to show the error and danger of the religious point of view that Strorm represents.

Satire is often defined as being humorous but this only one manifestation of satire, such as Mark Twain used. Satire can chide and point out hypocritical behaviors through humorless ridicule and irony as well. It just so happens that some of the better known satirists in literature have also been humorists, but the definition of satire does not depend on humor.

As Jerry Stratton writes in "Satire Isn't Comedy":

"Satire isn’t funny. It’s about turning the normal world over to expose what’s underneath. It’s about taking bad ideas to their logical, over-the-top conclusion. It’s about provocation."

Satire is defined as:

"Satire is the exposure of the vices or follies of an individual, a group, an institution, an idea, a society, etc., usually with a view to correcting it. Satirists frequently use irony."

Additionally, while wit is a very important part of satire, it is not the only potential component of satire. Bearing in mind that wit is not the same as humor, wit is defined as perceiving and expressing in an ingenious and amusing manner the relationship between seemingly incongruous or disparate, dissimilar things.

In The Chrysalids, satire exposes the vice of the religious principles represented by Strorm, with a view to correcting it, and does so by the wittiness of the situation with Morton and the horse and the allusion to the earlier situation with the cat.