The Chrysalids

by John Wyndham

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In The Chrysalids, what is David's power and how does it function?

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David's power is telepathy. He is able to communicate with fellow telepaths simply by thinking his thoughts, and he can hear the thoughts that they are sending to him. The book never really clearly explains how David and the other telepaths are able to do this. David and the others...

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don't really understand it themselves. They simply know that they have the ability. They "talk" to each other using "thought-shapes," and even David admits that he can't adequately describe what it is that he is doing with the thought-shapes.

It is not at all easy to explain in words how one can make intelligible thought-shapes.

Essentially, David and the others are sending words to each other. They are sending images that are then translated as conversation. The thought-shape telepathy is also something that requires practice. David and the others are born with the ability to do it, but they have to practice and use the skill to make it a more effective form of communication. David must also hide his ability because the Waknuk society will view his genetic mutation as a bad thing. He would be marked a Deviant, and his genetic code would then be purged from Waknuk society through death, sterilization, or eviction from the community.

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As David discovers from his earliest memories, the gift that he is born with is the ability to telepathically communicate with others of a similar nature, over distance. This is shown at the beginning of the story when David cryptically makes reference to "the others" who he communicates with, one of whom who is his cousin, Rosalind. Note what he says at the beginning of Chapter 6 after David's friend Sophie is captured:

In the evening, when I grew calmer, I found that Rosalind was trying to talk to me. Some of the others were anxiously asking what was the matter, too.

The ability that David has is therefore demonstrated, yet what makes his gift so exceptional is that he is different without bearing any different features or having any noticeable signs of his difference, unlike Sophie. This makes him and the other telepaths special precisely because they cannot be detected by the normal means. This, in a society like Waknuk that is focused so intently on identifying and rooting out any deviations, is a definite advantage as well as a danger.

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