The Chrysalids

The Chrysalids Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-10


Chapter 7

David’s sister Petra is born. David describes how the whole house ignores the fact that there is a baby, because when a baby is born the family has to wait until the inspector comes and decides whether the baby is in the True Image of human form, or whether it is instead a Blasphemy. The last two babies born were Blasphemies, were not approved by the inspector, and thus were sent away. Everyone knows that if this baby is also found to be a Blasphemy, then David’s father can send his mother away. The tension in the house builds as it seems the inspector is taking his time in coming there. The inspector approves the baby and issues a certificate that Petra is deviance-free.

A few days later, David is hiding in the room next to his mother’s bedroom as a way of avoiding work. His Aunt Harriet comes to the house with her newborn baby, and goes directly to visit David’s mother and her newborn. Harriet reveals that her baby was not issued a certificate, for a “small” reason. She wants to know if her sister Emily will consider lending her Petra, so that she can use her to in place of her own baby when the inspector comes, and thus get a certificate falsely issued for her own baby. Harriet is scared because this is the third baby she has had that is deviant, and she is afraid her husband Henry will send her away. Emily is against this plan, and calls Harriet’s baby a monster. David’s father Joseph interrupts the conversation; Emily reveals all to him, and Harriet tries to explain why she had hoped for help. Joseph is unsympathetic and stern, and instructs her to pray.

David watches as his aunt gets back in her carriage with her baby and rides away with a vacant expression on her face. He overhears his parents talking in the next room. Joseph is saying that he feels Harriet needs to be taught a lesson for her attempted heresy. Emily cries, a strange thing to David because he has never heard his mother cry before. The next day David finds out that Harriet was found dead in the river, but no one mentions anything about a baby.

Chapter 8

David is disturbed by how quickly Harriet’s death is forgotten. David feels that her death was not an accident. Harriet’s death triggers David’s concerns about his own deviation, and what might happen to him if anyone were to find out. He begins praying daily that his deviation will go away, but to no avail.

Uncle Axel notices that David has been distracted, and asks him to come with him to do some work. During their break, he asks David what has been bothering him. David shares that Aunt Harriet's death has fueled his fears about his own mutation. Uncle Axel comforts him. He also tells him that he found out who the boy was who stopped communicating telepathically: it was Walter Brent, who died in an accident. Uncle Axel again reminds David that the true image of man is not known, and that the Tribulation was something unprecedented, in that it has been able to cause such mutations in animals and plants. Uncle Axel theorizes that the Tribulation was “beneath” God. He also discusses how the Old People certainly made mistakes, and questions whether it is wise to try and follow in their image. He asks David what makes something a man. David begins by answering with the definition from Repentances, then points to the presence of a soul, but neither answer satisfies Uncle Axel. Uncle Axel believes that what makes something a man is the presence of a mind.

That night David tells his telepathic group about Walter Brent’s death. They agree to share their names and locations to prevent another scare of the same kind. He is introduced to Michael, Sally, Katherine, Mark, Anne, Rachel, the last two of whom are sisters. Michael is sent to school in Kentak, and once he is able to bridge the distance by strengthening his telepathic communication, he shares his newfound knowledge with the group.

Chapter 9

David recounts his discovery that Petra also has a gift of communicating without words. He is working in the field one day when he suddenly is hit with a pain in his head. He drops what he is doing and goes running off in the direction he is being telepathically called in. He does not know where or why he is going, but he is compelled to go. As he runs toward the stream, he sees Rosalind running down the other side of the bank. David dives into one of the pools of the stream and retrieves Petra, who is precariously clinging onto a bush to avoid being swept away by the current. David and Rosalind discuss what happened, and conclude that Petra is far more powerful than either of them because she is able to issue commands to others. At that moment, other people approach the three of them, because they had been alarmed by how quickly David and Rosalind had run to the spot. David and Rosalind lie to avoid suspicion: they say they both heard Petra screaming.

David dreams again of his father sacrificing an offense, but this time the sacrifice is Petra. The next day David and the others try communicating with Petra with thought-shapes, but they are unable to do so. They decide she is too young to understand, and that they will hold off on telling her in words because it could be too dangerous.

The farming season in Waknuk had been bad, with many fields being burned due to genetic mutations. David has a conversation with Old Jacob. Jacob complains of the level of deviances found in the crops this season. He believes they are a form of Judgement from God, and that they signify the coming of another Tribulation. He feels that the generations before this one adhered more to the rules, and thus they had fewer deviances in their crops. Jacob also reveals that human deviations used to be burned, and he believes they still should be. However, now they are sterilized and outlawed to the Fringes instead. Later, David discusses this conversation with Uncle Axel. Uncle Axel confirms that many people of the last generation feel the same way Jacob does. They discuss how years like this with high deviation rates put the community on edge and make the environment less tolerant.

Chapter 10

Anne announces she is going to marry Alan Ervin. The small telepathic community is scared because they feel this could threaten their safety. They also feel that marrying a person who cannot communicate in think-shapes would be like marrying a person with a disability: she will never be able to be as connected to Alan as she would to one of her own. Michael is especially opposed to their union, and argues strongly against it. However, Anne decides to go ahead with her plan to marry Alan. She blocks out the rest of the group and refuses to answer them at all.

David confides in Uncle Axel about the issue with Anne. He is also concerned about how this could affect the secret. However, he also shares that he believes women in love are not reasonable, and thus Anne will sacrifice anything to be with Alan. Sooner or later, he worries, she may accidentally or purposely reveal her secret to him. Uncle Axel suggests that one way of solving the problem would be to kill Anne, but David is opposed to the idea, because of the closeness he and the others feel with Anne due to their ability to think together.

David and Rosalind’s relationship has progressed, and they occasionally meet privately to make love. However, their families still do not get along, so they know that they cannot get married at this time. David’s father has taken his feud with Angus Morton to new heights, and both men kept a strict watch over each other’s crops and stock and report any offenses.

Eight months after Anne marries Alan, he is mysteriously murdered with an arrow. Rachel, Anne’s sister, goes over to check on Anne, but she is turned away. Anne believes the murderer was one of the members of the telepath group. They are all concerned for their safety. However, the next day Rachel finds that Anne hung herself and left a note for the inspector. Rachel gets the note before anyone else sees it. The note denounces all of them, including Petra. Rachel burns the letter. The murderer is not identified; the arrow that killed Alan was the same kind of arrow the many people use. Alan’s death and Anne’s subsequent suicide, as a young pregnant wife, is considered a tragedy, and the community moves on.


In describing Petra’s birth, David says a few ominous things about her difference, thus foreshadowing how Petra is going to change his world. Later, the strength of Petra’s power is revealed, and yet it still has an ominous tone to it. Her power is a threat to the world as David knows it, where he has thus far been able to hide his power. This threat is compounded by Anne’s decision to marry Alan–the same Alan who reported Sophie’s abnormality to the inspector.

We see Michael characterized as an intelligent leader and a planner: he is one of the oldest of the telepaths, and is going to school to learn things the rest of them do not have access to. Further, he is the most opposed to Anne’s marrying of Alan. When Anne kills herself, Michael is the least concerned about her death, instead stating ”One of us has been found not strong enough” (103).

The puritanical evangelism of David’s father is presented in another light—this time in his anxiety for his own child to be non-deviant. Joseph Strorm feels slighted by the inspector coming late, and David says to the reader what Joseph hasn’t said out loud: if this child is deviant, then Joseph will most likely have to turn his wife out of the house. David later dreams that Petra is the subject of a Purification ceremony, sentenced to be killed. Unlike Sophie’s parents, who were willing to flee their own community for Sophie’s sake, and unlike Aunt Harriet who is willing to risk heresy for the sake of keeping her baby, the dream motif returns to emphasize that David’s father (and probably his mother as well) are willing to sacrifice everything, even their own children, for their beliefs.

The roles of women in Waknuk are also brought to light in these chapters. It is a woman’s duty to bear children for her husband; if she bears children that are not in the True Image, it is because she has sinned. Emily Strorm staunchly believes in this theory, so much so that she offers no sympathy to her sister Harriet. Harriet, on the other hand, contrasts Emily’s overly puritanical point of view. Harriet sees her child as a human, regardless of whether the child fits into the true image or not. Harriet does not see herself as a woman who has sinned, but rather as a mother who loves her child (Krome, Loving & Reeves, 57).

Another presentation of the woman’s role in Waknuk is that of a young woman’s obligation to marry. David describes Rosalind’s pressures to get married, and how her mother has brought her several suitors. In Anne’s marriage to Alan, she demonstrates that she feels she must follow the societal regulations of marrying, despite knowing that it will endanger the telepathic community (Krome, Loving & Reeves, 58). Both Harriet’s death, most likely by suicide, and Anne’s death by suicide emphasize the bleak prospects available for women in this dystopian future.

David has a discussion with Uncle Axel that emphasizes that there is more than one way of thinking about the true image of man. Unlike what David learned in school (i.e. “the duty and purpose of man in this world is to fight unceasingly against the evils that Tribulation loosed upon it. Above all, he must see that the human form is kept true to the divine pattern...” (41)), Axel highlights the irony and contradiction within the Waknuk belief system: if the people of Waknuk do believe that Tribulation was brought on by God because of the Old People’s sins, then why should they be following in the Old People’s footsteps?