The Chrysalids

The Chrysalids Summary and Analysis of Chapters 14-17


Chapter 14

David describes how he feels as he wakes up. He first finds the “real” Rosalind with his mind. He says that the Rosalind that other people know is a facade that Rosalind built as a protection, as a form of armor of independence, resilience and practicality; the real Rosalind is the one that David loves, and he has no words to describe her. Gradually David realizes he is in his pannier basket. Rosalind reveals in thoughts to him and Michael that they were attacked and taken captive by Fringes people. All of them are safe and are being taken to the camp in the Fringes. Michael reports that their search party/army has gathered about 100 people and is moving in the direction of the Fringes.

David stands up in his basket and finds a Fringes man in the other basket. David observes the strange country around him and realizes he cannot identify any of the plants or trees. The man informs David that in time, Wild Country will settle down. The man discusses the Fringes ideology that to try and be like the Old People is to be arrogant and wrong, and that this will cause another Tribulation as punishment from God. The Fringes ideology is that life is change.

David and Michael think-discuss what David should tell the Fringes people when they are questioned about how they are deviant. They decide to tell them as little as possible, for fear that they won’t be accepted by the Fringes for seeming normal on the outside.

Petra lets everyone know that the Sealand people have sent help. Michael is skeptical. The Sealand woman is finally able to make contact with Rosalind and David, and asks them questions about their situation. The Sealand people call themselves the “New People.” They feel they are better than other people because of their ability to think together and understand each other. The Sealand woman calls the Old People barbaric and savage. David finds this strange since he was brought up to respect the Old People as the True Image. The Sealand Woman tells the history of her people. Because they were on two islands, the effects of Tribulation didn’t hit them as hard. When the think-together people developed, they were able to accomplish more together, such as building machines. Now the New People use these machines to travel and gather other people who can form thought-shapes and who are existing in “primitive” communities like the one David lived in.

David, Rosalind, and Petra are taken to the encampment in the Fringes. They are scared at the deformities they might see, but mostly they just see people dressed in ragged clothing. David is brought to face the “spider-man," the same man who he saw so many years ago in Waknuk. They acknowledge that they remember each other, and David reveals that he knows of the older brother of his father, who was found to have an abnormality around age 4, and then disappeared. His abnormality is that his legs and arms are too long. He is bitter because he believes he should have been the heir of Waknuk, not David’s father, Joseph. He believes David must have the same bitterness about losing out on inheriting Waknuk, but David does not. The spider-man tells David he has heard of his kind, but does not understand why 100 men have been sent just to get three people. David reports he thinks they feel especially threatened by their abilities. The man wants to know if David’s father is among the army coming; David does not know the answer, but he tells him no. The man then looks at Rosalind in a way full of sexual desire, and Rosalind is scared. David attacks the man and they fight. The man admits he would like to use Rosalind to bear his children. He then bans David from the encampment and has him thrown out into the woods, with orders to shoot him if he returns.

Chapter 15

David awakes with Sophie dragging him through the woods. David gets in touch with Michael via thoughts and finds out Rosalind and Petra are safe. Sophie shares with David that she is in love with the spider-man, whose name is Gordon. However, she is sad because she knows he will leave her for a woman like Rosalind who can have babies, because Sophie was sterilized before she was taken to the Fringes. Sophie asks David if he is in love with Rosalind, and he admits that he is. David assures her that Rosalind will not agree to have children with the spider-man. David explains that he knows this because of his ability to communicate with Rosalind via thoughts; Sophie is skeptical and confused, but accepts the explanation.

Sophie takes David to her small home, up a ladder and in a cave. The entrance is covered by a leather curtain. The cave contains a mattress of branches, a bucket to catch the dripping water, a fire pit, some tools, and arrows. Sophie helps clean David up, and then goes to fetch food.

David checks in with Michael via thoughts; their army is camped for the night. Michael found out that the authorities want David and Rosalind to help them identify others in the district that have the same ability. Michael also reports that neither he nor Rachel have heard from Mark in over a day, and are concerned about his wellbeing. After David eats the strange food Sophie gives him, Petra awakens and bombards them with her distressed thoughts, because she is worried David is dead. David and Rosalind have a loving thought-shape exchange. Rosalind and Petra are being held captive in the spider-man’s tent, but he is currently not there, and they are being guarded by an albino. Rosalind expresses her fear of the spider-man.

Michael asks the Sealand woman if she is still coming, and she affirms that she is. Sophie tells David she can help get Rosalind and Petra out of the spider-man’s tent before he returns. David cannot go because it is too much of a risk. Sophie brings a knife. David witnesses some surprise- and shock-thoughts from Petra and Rosalind, and then the three girls return to the cave. Sophie cleans off her blood-covered arms.

Chapter 16

Sophie and Rosalind regard each other skeptically. Sophie removes her blood-stained bodice and is topless while she washes it. David tries to explain to Rosalind why Sophie is helping them. Sophie, half-naked and with stringy hair, bitterly confronts Rosalind, and Sophie declares that she is in love with David, and then cries. Petra goes to comfort her.

The next day David awakens and Michael admonishes him for sleeping too much. Michael informs him that the army he is with has already fought one battle. The Sealand woman assures them they will be there in eight hours or less. The Sealand woman reports that they have had to cross a lot of badlands to get to them, and wonders how anyone could have created such a terrible place.

Petra confirms with Rachel that she has not heard from Mark. Petra reports to David that she can see Rachel’s “behind-thinks” of being scared. David is concerned about Petra’s ability to reach thoughts that are not intended for her.

Sophie awakens and prepares breakfast. She reports to the group that the dead albino was discovered and that the people suspect David did it. Petra asks Michael if her and David’s father is with the army; Michael affirms that he is. Petra does not understand the implications of this—that her father is on a hunt to harm her and her brother. David is upset by the thought. The Sealand woman advises David to leave his father be, because his father is part of a dying species of men. The Sealand woman continues her speech, going into detail about the Old People and how they were broken into fragments by Tribulation. Now, she relates that David and their kind have to cut themselves off from their old community to be able to embark on their new vision for the world, as seen in Sealand.

Sophie goes to check on what is happening with the organization of the Fringes' forces. When she returns she is reluctant to report to David what she has learned, but he reassures her that he wants the Fringes to win. David tries to share information with Michael that will help him survive the battle. The Fringes forces have plans to ambush the Waknuk army on their side of the river. Michael keeps David updated. The Waknuk army spots the plan and splits into two to try to trick the Fringes army, which works. David, Rosalind, and Petra observe the battle from the cave. They watch as the Fringes forces are trapped between the two parts of the Waknuk forces, who are firing at them from either side. Meanwhile, the Sealand woman continues to draw closer, sending reassuring thoughts to Petra that they are coming. David watches as Gordon, the spider-man, spots his brother, David’s father Joseph, and shoots him with an arrow, hitting and killing him. Gordon then grabs Sophie and begins to run, but is shot down with arrows. Sophie runs, but she is also shot with an arrow.

Suddenly they all hear a strange noise, a drumming sound, and the Sealand woman announces they are coming. The army, David, and company look up to see a silver-fish-shaped object, like the one David had seen in his dreams as a child. It is shooting a mist of glistening cobweb-like threads down onto the people. Michael is caught in the cobwebs. The Sealand woman advises him to remain calm and lie down where he is. David watches as people try to get the cobwebs off of them, but are stuck and struggle and fall to the ground. The threads of cobweb begin to come into the cave and stick to David.

Chapter 17

David, Petra, and Rosalind remain completely still in the cave, bound by the sticky threads. They hear the Sealand people’s machine land, followed by an almost complete silence. The Sealand woman reaches Michael first and frees him from the threads; then she comes to the cave to release David, Petra, and Rosalind using a de-sticking spray. The Sealand woman is wearing a shiny white suit.

David observes the flying machine in the middle of the clearing, a fish-shaped body with windows, topped by a conical spiral that spins when it is flying. The whole area is covered in the cobweb-like threads, and everything there is completely motionless. David watches trees and bushes pull out of the ground, and a shack collapses under the contraction of the threads.

The Sealand woman removes her hood and reveals a fair-complexioned face, with unblemished skin, and a smooth, almost perfect appearance. She also has short hair, which is not customary for the women David knows. She is especially happy and awed to meet Petra; she picks her up and kisses her, and declares that her efforts were "worthwhile” in an accent that is unrecognizable to David. In thought-shapes, she declares that she has much to teach Petra, and the rest of them too.

Michael asks if they can go to Waknuk to retrieve Rachel, but the Sealand woman says they cannot because of the limitations of their machine. If they go to Waknuk, they would not have enough fuel and power to take them all back to Sealand. They all ponder this, and suddenly Rosalind realizes how uncanny the silence is, and asks if all the people around them are dead. The Sealand woman confirms that the threads, which are made of plastic, trap and then contract on anything they touch, thus suffocating it. She asserts that this form of weapon is more merciful than arrows or spears. She goes on to philosophize about how the people who died were of a kind that is dying out anyway, and that the old have to die to make room for the new. She continues that her own kind, who can think together, is of a superior type, and thus are part of the evolution of humankind. She reminds David and the others that their people had wanted to get rid of them to preserve their kind.

Michael has Petra contact Rachel to tell her that he will come to get her. Michael plans to eventually make his way to Sealand with Rachel, if there is a way to get there. David, Petra, and Rosalind leave with the Sealand woman in the flying machine. When they reach the Sealand city, David is in awe. Everything looks exactly as he dreamed it: boats in the water, a city with houses and parks, and vehicles driving. He holds Rosalind’s hand to assure himself of the reality. Rosalind has David open his mind more, and they both listen to the buzzing that comes from all the people who are thinking together in the city. David sees Rosalind take down her armor, and sees the true Rosalind released. Then Petra lets out a strong burst of thought from her excitement, impacting all of those around her. She apologizes for her excitement, and Rosalind says they’ll forgive her, because it really is very exciting.


The theme of friendship is strongly demonstrated in these chapters. Even after many years of being apart, Sophie remembers David and saves him from the brutality of the Fringes people. She is even willing to risk herself by going to save Rosalind and Petra for David's sake. Another embodiment of the theme of friendship is Michael deciding not to go with the Sealanders because he feels it is more important for him to remain together with Rachel, the only surviving telepath left in Waknuk.

The theme of othering/intolerance returns, but this time in presenting the Other as the non-telepathic people, and the telepathy as an evolutionary advantage that gives them the right to eliminate the people of a lesser advantage. Evolution as a theme for regrowth of human kind is the driving force behind the ideology of the Sealanders.

Gordon Strorm, or "Spider-man," is presented in these chapters as Joseph Strorm's foil. They are almost exactly the same, coming from the same parents, but one was deemed to be abnormal and was banished, while the other, Joseph, falls within the standards of Purity and Norm. They are exact opposites and yet they mirror each other. In these final chapters, the two brothers confront each other in a war, and Gordon kills Joseph, before he himself is killed.

Gender roles for women is a reoccurring motif that appears in these chapters, in a few representations. One is Rosalind, who until this point has been painted as a strong, independent woman, who plans ahead and can skillfully use a bow and arrow. However, in Chapter 14 David reveals that that version of Rosalind as a strong independent woman is actually an armor for a softer, sweeter, more feminine version of Rosalind that only David knows.

The woman's place in the Fringes is also touched on in Sophie’s role as the companion to Spider-man, as well as a fighter and a survivor. Despite Sophie’s strong skills in survival, what she really wants is to be able to bear children—if not for Spider-man, then for her first love, David. Wyndham thus reduces Sophie to a sad, desperate girl who only wants to conform to the gender role of the place where she came from: being a wife and a mother.

The final version of woman that Wyndham reveals is that of the Sealand lady, a woman who commands and organizes forces, and who is pure and beautiful. And yet, her views on the evolution of humanity are precise and cold. One critic compared the Sealand woman to Emily Strorm in her puritanical and steady devotion to her ideology (Krome, Loving & Reeves 59). However, unlike Emily Strorm, the Sealand lady seems to command power. She is in communication with others, and does appear to have some constraints that she has to follow, yet at the same time she is the only representation of Sealand society that is introduced and described to the reader. Unlike Emily Strorm, the Sealand lady operates on her own, without a man directing her actions.

The novel ends with the exact imagery with which it began: with an aerial view of the beautiful city that we now know is Sealand/Zealand. David, despite his general lack of action and lack of planning, has at last been able to bring one of his sleep dreams to fruition. In a grand finale of many of the themes seen throughout the novel, together with his Friends David has arrived in the safe haven of Zealand, and is no longer isolated, but instead is pursuing regrowth and evolution.