How does David change throughtout the novel in The Chrysalids?

The story begins with David, a ten year old boy who lives in Labrador. His family is not very well off because they were forced to move from their home by the government. This was due to his father’s involvement in an illegal political organization. David has a younger sister named Petra, who is four years old when the story begins. She came from his mother’s womb dead, mind you—she did not die until she had been removed from her mother’s body. David lives with his parents and little sister in a small house behind some other houses that are owned by members of their church (The Pentecostals).

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The Chrysalids starts off with a ten-year-old David, playing all by himself at the high bank. He meets and makes friends with Sophie, who has six toes, a trait that makes her a mutant by Labrador’s religious laws. These laws labeled all those things that did not conform to the true image of God as deviations—“all those things that did not look right.” He discovers Sophie’s secret trait and makes a promise to her mother not to reveal her blemish to anybody. About the same time, David’s Uncle Axel learns about David and his cousin Rosalind, and how they communicate “telepathically” using thought-images. Uncle Axel again, asks David to make a promise not to tell anybody about the thought-images. Later, when Sophie and her family get arrested for concealing her deviation, he begins to understand the role played by the strict religious laws in Labrador. He also understands that the thought images that he, Rosalind and his circle of friends use to communicate, makes them different from the true image of God, hence deviations.

About six years later, David’s circle of friends who talk in thought-shapes expands to include his baby sister Petra. About the same time, one of the group members, Anne, decides to marry a norm—something that, if allowed to happen, would put the lives of all nine thought talkers at risk. Six months after Anne’s marriage, her husband is murdered, and Anne commits suicide. The experience leaves all group members with a heightened sense of awareness of their deviation and the risk of exposure.

A little while later, five of the thought talkers are discovered, David, Rosalind, and Petra manage to escape before being arrested. They run off to the Fringes, where they receive Sophie’s help to hide them from further harm. By this time, David has matured into a young man, knowledgeable of the ways of his people and able to make quick decisions that serve to protect him and the other two in his care. He learns to be an independent person. He has understood his people’s bigotry and what he must do to protect himself and those he loves from the wicked laws of the land.

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In The Chrysalids, David goes from an innocent little boy to a young man with adult responsibilities.

In the beginning of the story, David reflects on a moment that shaped his childhood.  It was when he met the little six-toed Sophie, and realized that people with deviations were not monsters.  This is important because David himself is a deviant.  He can see thought-pictures shared by certain others, including his cousin Rosalind.

I was a normal little boy, growing up in a normal way, taking the ways of the world about me for granted. … It is hind-sight that enables me to fix that as the day when my first small doubts started to germinate. (ch 1)

The other event that dramatically changes David’s life is when he realizes that Petra is also telepathic.  From that point on he has to worry about someone other than himself.  He has to protect Petra, and take on a rather adult responsibility.

The next day I tried to send thought-shapes to Petra. It seemed to me important for her to know as soon as possible that she must not give herself away. I tried hard, but I could make no contact with her. (ch 9)

Petra is too young to protect herself, and too young to understand what is happening to her.  David must look out for her to keep anyone else from finding out about her, but since she is so strong she is also a threat to all of the telepaths.

It is Anne’s choice that causes all of the telepaths to have to flee though.  When she marries a normal man, everyone is in danger.  She loves him, so she chooses to tell him.  He cannot accept it, and Uncle Axel has to kill him to protect all of the telepaths.  It doesn’t work.  They are found out.  David and Rosalind flee with Petra.

On the run, David experiences many adult situations.  His love for Rosalind is developing.  He has to have a parent-like relationship with young Petra.  He tries to protect Rosalind from his uncle’s less-than-pure intentions. 

David has become hardened and matured.  He is no longer the little boy he was.

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