The Chrysalids

by John Wyndham

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Why did the Inspector delay visiting Petra in Chapter 7 of The Chrysalids?

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I suppose that this answer might vary depending on the reader. Some readers might say that the Inspector delayed his visit to intentionally anger Joseph Strorm, and other readers might argue that the Inspector showed up late as a way to demonstrate his power. If the second argument is made, then it has to be said that the Inspector's power trip resulted in making Joseph angry. I think that the Inspector intentionally delayed his arrival as a way to exert a power trip over Joseph. Joseph was intentionally insulting to the Inspector back in chapter 4 over an issue of "great-horses" and breeding. The argument escalated to the point that Joseph publicly insulted the Inspector in church, and the Inspector responded with threats of government sanctions. By delaying his visit in chapter 7, I think the Inspector is being intentionally spiteful. He's making sure that the Strorm household is in a very stressful situation for quite some time. He has the power to make things better faster, but he's simply not motivated to do that for a guy that he doesn't like.

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It is clear that the Inspector uses this chance to get his own back at David's father, having been insulted by him in public previously. In this dystopian world, any new baby can only be openly acknowledged once it has been checked by an Inspector and a certificate signed to declare that it is not a mutant. This had to be done as soon as possible, and so when David's father sends out a message for the Inspector, he expects him to turn up straight away. However, what happens is the opposite:

...the stablehand, instead of bringing back the inspector forthwith, as was to be expected when a man of my father's position and influence was concerned, returned with a polite message that the inspector would certainly do his best to find time to pay a call in the course of the day.

When the Inspector finally arrives, he ambles along in no particular hurry, and takes his time examining the baby, even going as far as to delay at the crucial moment when he signs his name on the certificate. As David comments, it was a very foolish thing to do to argue with the Inspector, as he has "too many ways of hitting back." Crucially delaying in arriving to check the new arrival in the Storm household is just one of those ways, and it is clear the Inspector delights in having power over Joseph after being insulted by him.

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