The narrator, who begins the book from his perspective as a child, and continues the story through his teenage years. He is part of a secret group who is able to communicate amongst each other telepathically. Their abilities are considered deviant from the norm, or the "true image" of man, and thus David has to be very careful not to reveal this talent to anyone else. He is a trustworthy and understanding person, although at times he can be lazy, as he often avoids work or plans poorly. He also often has vivid dreams in his sleep portraying his fears and prophecies. His caring nature can be seen in how much he cares for his younger sister and how he is willing to conceal Sophie’s secret of having six toes.
Joseph is an overly religious person who is narrow-minded, believing heavily in the Waknuk religion. He abides strongly by his faith and is considered the most devout person in his society. He has such a pious personality that he is willing to be cruel to his son, David, to demonstrate the importance of strict rules regarding adhering to the norm. Being judicial and a religious leader who is quick to condemn others, he is a feared individual who is staunch in enforcing the “True Image."
As Joseph’s loyal wife, she is also devoutly religious. Emily is submissive to her husband: no matter what attitude her husband takes, she’ll follow blindly. In fact, when her son David is punished by his father, Emily just retreats and does nothing to defend or care for her son. She has decorated their house with phrases from Waknuk’s religious text—for instance, 'WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT'.
David’s oldest sister. She advises David in the first chapter to never discuss the dream he has of city with cars, planes, and boats. She often takes the role of David's caretaker when he is injured or unwell. She also often helps attend to her mother. She is characterized as caring, but cautious.
The sibling closest in age to David. She is 5 years older than David, meaning David often played alone due to the age difference.
Petra is David’s younger sister and the youngest in the Strorm family. She is also has very strong telepathic abilities. Her youth and power increase the risk of the rest of the telepaths being discovered because Petra can neither control nor comprehend her abilities.
Aunt Harriet is a loving and loyal individual. She loves her baby and loves her husband Henry. In Chapter 7, Aunt Harriet wanted to swap babies with her sister Emily to get a certificate since her baby is a Deviant and Emily’s baby (Petra) is perfect. However, Emily and Joseph accuse her of being used by the Devil to trick them to commit a conspiracy and heresy. She is found dead in the river later, possibly by suicide.
Aunt Harriet’s husband, he lives on a farm in Kentak, 15 miles from Waknuk. Harriet fears Henry will send her away because she has had three babies with Deviations.
Uncle Axel is a kind and understanding individual, very much in contrast to Joseph and Emily Strorm. He is the husband of Emily's deceased sister, Elizabeth. He used to be a sailor until he was injured, and now he lives and works on the Strorm's farm. He is a supportive person who is willing to give help and advice to others, especially David. In Chapter 4, David confides in him about his telepathic abilities, which Uncle Axel keeps it a secret. This shows that Uncle Axel is an understanding, approachable, selfless individual. Uncle Axel also provides David with information about the world outside Waknuk.
Deceased. David’s maternal Aunt, wife of Uncle Axel. She died in Rigo after a voyage East.
David's cousin. She is also a member of the telepathic group, and David’s close friend. Their relationship evolves into a romantic one towards the end of the novel. She offers her insight to both David and Petra, and she is quite protective of them. As a cautious individual, she is also very loving and optimistic, and helps plan and make decisions in the best interest of David and Petra. She is a strong woman, and often uses a bow and arrow to protect herself. Angus Morton is her father.
David’s mother’s half-brother, whose farm shares a border with the Strorms’ farm. Like Joseph Strorm, he is a devoutly religious person who believes in destroying all Deviations. Joseph and Angus often disagree on the topic of Deviation. Angus is the father of Rosalind.
Aunt Hannah, Aunt Lillian, Uncle Thomas
Aunt Hannah is David’s maternal aunt, who was sent away by husband and never heard from again. Aunt Lillian is David’s mother’s half-sister, and Uncle Thomas is David’s mother’s half-brother, both are of unknown whereabouts.
David’s grandfather, deceased, who built and started the Waknuk community. A husky dominating and evangelical man, he married and had two children, Joseph and Gordon. His wife is not named in the book, and died shortly after the second son is born.
Gordon Strorm/the spider-man
Joseph Strorm’s brother who was banished to live in the Fringes outside of the Waknuk society. People call him the spider-man because his limbs are so long and skinny that he resembles a spider. When, as a young child, his "deviance" of having long limbs was discovered, and he mysteriously disappeared from Waknuk, likely at the hands of his mother and nurse. Gordon resents Joseph because if Gordon had been deemed normal, he would have been the heir of Waknuk, not Joseph.
Early in the novel, David discovers that she has six toes on each foot, thus making her a mutant in their society. Nonetheless, Sophie and David become friends and share a sort of childhood love between them. She is portrayed as a strong, independent, and curious little girl. As an adult living in the Fringes, she is portrayed as resourceful and clever. Martie and John Wender are her parents.
Martie and John Wender
Sophie's mother and father. Martie is described as tall with a handsome face and bright eyes. She dresses in a similar manner to the women from David’s village. She has the ability to form thought-shapes, but she cannot receive the thought-shapes that David tries to send back to her. She is affectionate and warm, a sharp contrast to David's mother. John Wender is described as a stern and serious man, the protector and caretaker of his family. He does not believe wholly in the magical qualities that are attributed to the Old People, and he passes these beliefs onto Sophie.
Michael is a critical thinker and acts as the leader of the telepathic group. He is calm and quick-witted as well. He demonstrates wisdom and patience in the face of pressure, when the telepathic group is being suspected by society. He is loyal to the group and believes they need to act as one in order to protect each other. He has a close relationship, possibly romantic, with another telepath named Rachel.
Being a telepath blinded by love, she recklessly wants to leave the group to marry a norm by the name of Alan Ervin. She marries Alan in Chapter 10 of the novel. Anne is also the sister of Rachel. Anne eventually commits suicide after her husband is murdered.
Alan is first introduced in Chapter 5 when he comes upon David and Sophie playing in the river. He is the son of John Ervin, the blacksmith. Alan and David fight when David realizes that Alan has seen a clue of Sophie's deviance. Alan reports Sophie to the authorities. Later in the novel, as Anne's husband, he is suspected to have had plans to report the telepathic group, which would have caused the group trouble. However, Uncle Axel kills him before he is able to reveal their secret.
Being Anne’s sister, Rachel is also a telepath. She is the last telepath left in Waknuk after all of the other telepaths have left for Sealand with the Sealand woman. She is one who is afraid of being lonely and is in love with Michael. As a result, when Michael heard that the Sealand woman’s flying machine would not be able to accommodate Rachel to New Sealand, he eventually stays to go back to Waknuk while letting the rest of the group go.
Walter Brent, Mark, Sally, and Katherine
They are all members of the telepathic group. Walter was killed early in the novel due to an accident. Mark was no longer in communication with the other telepaths after David fled Waknuk with Petra and Rosalind; hence it is implied that Mark was killed. Both Sally and Katherine are caught for being Deviants, and Katherine is tortured. Katherine reveals a few names under her torture, and Sally is forced to reveal names as well.
The Sealand Woman
Being the head of the Sealand people (who come from Sealand, or Zealand, where current-day New Zealand is), she saves David and a few of his telepathic friends. Her nation, who calls themselves the New People, is more technologically advanced than Waknuk. In Zealand telepathy is the norm and resources are devoted to study it and advance telepathy further. Although only briefly touched upon, the Sealand woman is a relatively haughty and arrogant individual who believes that her race and other telepaths are far superior compared to others due to their telepathic ability.
The Inspector is much like Joseph Strorm in the Waknuk society, enforcing the rules of the norm. He is also a law-abiding individual, and is most concerned with enforcing the government's regulations. He and Joseph often disagree because Joseph's definition of mutation and deviance is stricter than the one the Inspector has to enforce as dictated by the government. He has amore understanding personality than Joseph, which can be seen in instances such as when he knew that David was concealing Sophie’s deviance, but did not severely punish David.
He says that the way mutants are being treated now is different from when he was younger. He serves to represent an older generation that treated deviations more harshly than they are treated now.
The man who looks after the community’s steam-engine. The only adult friend of Sophie in Waknuk.
Neighbors in Waknuk. They owned a tailless cat that Joseph Strorm believed was an abomination. The Dakers appealed and won, with the government finding that the cat belonged to a recognized tailless species. However, before the appeal came back, Joseph had already gotten rid of the cat on his own. He was made to issue a public apology so as to not have to renounce his position as magistrate.
The arrow maker of Waknuk.
The man who comes upon the group of telepaths in the woods after Petra has sent out her distress call about her pony. He is a new neighbor of Katherine and Sally. He is likely one of the people who reported the telepaths to the authorities.
A neighbor in Waknuk. He begins to raise suspicion about the telepathic group to Uncle Axel.
Historical figure, explorer, and sailor, mentioned by Uncle Axel, Marther was the first to state that in the Badlands there were areas that were becoming habitable again, thus theorizing that the earth could regrow and reclaim the damaged areas.
A man Uncle Axel knew in his sailing days. Grouth kept one man and two women under his watch, because he knew a secret about them that they didn’t want told; as a result of blackmail, they did anything he said. Uncle Axel uses Grouth as an allegory for what he does not want to see happen to David and his telepathic group.
The Chrysalids Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Chrysalids is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.