One prevalent symbol in the book is the horse. Horses serve a variety of metaphorical purposes. The horse is a representation of escape because they can be ridden as a means of escape. In concert with this thematic agency, horses ridden bareback or otherwise unrestricted by the dominion of humans come to figurative denote the idea of freedom.
Sophie's Death in the Dream (Allegory)
David has a dream in which his father cuts Sophie’s throat like an animal being sacrificed as part of a purification ritual. This act is laden with religious symbolism as the traditional dream imagery of lamb being led to slaughter is inextricably tied to the sacrifice of Jesus of on the cross. On a more literal level, Sophie’s death in David’s dream is a symbolic foreboding of a coming threat in the waking world.
Genetic Mutation (motif)
Any divergence from the genetic norm is viewed by the Labradorian authorities as an abomination against God. From Sophie’s sixth toe to a mutated creature that attacks Petra’s horse, all mutant animals, plants and humans are seen as blasphemous stains upon the purity of their society. These mutants are forcibly disposed of in order to avoid both scientific and spiritual toxicity.
David’s Parents’ House (Symbol)
The house that David’s parents call home is of sturdy physical construction, which parallels their solid religious conviction. The house is a metaphor for the even sturdier construction of their morality and purity. As if to punctuate this point, the house has been decorated by David’s mother with proverbial nuggets from the book of Repentances which is filled with spiritual wisdom underscoring the importance of the norm, and the evil of deviance from the norm.
The Steam Engine (Symbol)
The steam engine symbolizes the superior wisdom and power possessed by the Old People in comparison to contemporary society. Not only is the steam engine itself a literal representative of the known power that existed in the old days, it works as a figurative symbol of the lost or as-yet-undiscovered lost power of the Old People that potentially makes the steam engine look primitive by comparison.
Harry Jack and Old Maggie (allegory)
Hairy Jack and Old Maggie are the boogie men of Waknuk: the stories that mothers tell their children to scare them out of being bad. These two fictional monsters live in the Fringes, and represent all of the scary and threatening characteristics of a deviant non-human being—they eat other humans, have multiple eyes, arms, and ears, live in primitive caves.
Women's roles (motif)
The constraints placed on women in Waknuk and Fringes society are explored at multiple points in the book. The general role of women in Waknuk is to be a wife, a source of pure reproduction, and a mother and caretaker. In the Fringes, the women are expected to be able to make homes as well as to survive and fight, but many of them are sterilized and thus unable to reproduce. Some unconventional women do appear in the work, such as Rosalind Morton, a strong telepath with fighting skills, and the Sealand woman, an arrogant and commanding force of another race of humans; yet Wyndham's overall portrayal of women fits within the standard 1950's point of view from which he wrote.
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.