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Plants are burned, animals are butchered, and human variances are banished to the Fringes where they run out sight, can not recreate, and will either pass away or live a miserable life. The primary factor that the citizens of Waknuk desire such sameness and conformity is since of their superstitious and spiritual beleifs. They think that God sent adversities to “The Old Individuals”, and that was why their society was ruined. Since they do not desire the very same thing to occur to their society, individuals of “The New World” and of Waknuk believe that they must keep the gene pool free of anomalies and discrepancies, so that everyone is made in the “real image” of God.
Those who are not in the “true image”, and those who do not do everything within their ability to keep society real to how God developed and wanted it are shaming God, and will force him to send adversities to the town as punishment.
The severe need of the people of Waknuk to adhere and follow their cultural superstitions drives them to do insane things that are harmful to their community, such as burn crops, kill livestock, and send away or kill their loved ones. Without this extreme desire to rid themselves and their community of differences, and to please God and avoid his wrath and punishment, the people of Waknuk might most likely live fairly typical lives. They would have more food, more animals, and most likely more cash from offering anything that they had left over.
The Chrysalids shows how diversity can be an advantage, and how unsafe conformity and social superstitions can be.
Through Joseph Strorm’s extreme treatment of David, we can see how essential the problem of conformity is to the residents of Waknuk.Conformity in Waknuk appears in numerous methods, be it burning of Deviant crops, slaughtering of Deviant animals and spreading out awareness on the dangers of the Mutant to their serene society.Joseph shows this requirement for conformity in this passage by blasting David for even suggesting variance from the Standard. The evidence for this is “you Blasphemed, kid. You discovered fault with the Norm,” “This is a horrible thing, an outrageous thing. You are … dedicating blasphemy!” Joseph immediately accused poor David of having blasphemed and started yelling at him, without mercy or bothering to understand the truth.His treatment of David therefore shows how important conformity to the Norm really is to him.
In the famous novel, The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham, the author develops ideas on the nature and effect of conformity through the society of Waknuk. Much of The Chrysalids revolves around conformity, superstition, and their consequences. The people of Waknuk are all extremely conformist. They live, and have been raised in a community where there is no room for diversity, individuality or variation. They believe the same things, live the same way, and anyone or anything different from the rest of them, and varying from their idea of “the true image” (Wyndham page 13) is “neither man nor woman.
It is a blasphemy against the true Image of God and hateful in the sight of God” (Wyndham page 13). The main reason that the citizens of Waknuk desire such sameness and conformity is because of their superstitious and religious beliefs. They believe that God sent tribulations to “the Old People” (Wyndham page 5) in displeasure. This idea of orthodoxy caused harm to their community, created intolerance and prejudice and led to a stagnant, static society.
As mentioned before, Waknuk as a society have this all-consuming passion for conformity, believing that it is beneficial as it prevents another Tribulation. As it turns out however, it has rather devastating effects.The acute need of the citizens of Waknuk to conform and follow their cultural superstitions drives them to do nonsensical things that are detrimental to their community, such as burn crops, kill livestock, and send away or kill their friends and family. Without this extreme desire to rid themselves and their community of differences, and to please God and avoid his wrath and punishment, the citizens of Waknuk may well be able to live fairly normal lives. They would have more food, more livestock, and probably more money from selling anything that they had left over.
In addition to being injurious, conformity also led to prejudice and intolerance in Waknuk. The lives of everyone in Waknuk revolve completely around judging and discriminating against anyone and anything that is even slightly varying from the “true image” (Wyndham page 13) of God (commonly called deviations or mutants). The people of Waknuk believe that Deviants are an abomination and the work of the Devil. Anything that does not conform to the Norm is considered “accursed in the sight of God and man” (Wyndham page 27) and shunned. From a young age, the Definition of Man and the importance of Purity are drilled into these citizens. These teachings lead to a fixed mindset revolving around the persecution of Deviants upon growing up.
This intolerance is also visible in the Strorm household and in the antagonist; Joseph Strorm’s actions. Joseph, upon hearing his son innocently wish for a third hand, accuses him of “calling upon the Devil” (Wyndham page 26). This bigotry even applies to infants as is shown when Emily indicts Harriet of “producing a defilement” (Wyndham page 72) that will “grow up to…spread pollution” (Wyndham page 72). There are no human emotions in the rule of law in Waknuk. Everything is ruled by fear and dogma. Innocents are sacrificed so that people can have a feeling of control. Deviant humans are cruelly sterilized and abandoned in the Fringes, never allowed to return. This harsh treatment of Deviations shows us that Waknuk is intolerant of and prejudiced against Deviation.
Lastly, conformity also accelerated Waknuk’s downfall in that it led to refuse the notion of change and the introduction of new ideas. Waknuk did not want to change anything about their society, and wanted to keep ferreting out Deviations until the whole society was pure and true according to the standards of their so-called faith. As a result of their rigidity, they became a stagnant society because there was no progress forward. The Sealanders are the exact opposite of Waknuk, they embraced the change and realized that the “essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution: and we are part of it. The static, the enemy of change, is the enemy of life, and therefore our implacable enemy”.
When the Sealand woman arrives to save the telepaths, she comments that David’s people are the ones who are going to be extinct, because they do not allow change, that they “have become history without being aware of it. They are determined still that there is a final form to defend: soon they will attain the stability they strive for, in the only form it is granted – a place among the fossils…” (Wyndham page 182) If the Waknuk community did not have fears, they would realize that the world lives on reformation and contrast and that “life is change, that is how it differs from the rocks, change is its very nature…The living form defies evolution at its peril; if it does not adapt, it will be broken.” (Wyndham page 182)
The people of Waknuk have lived in fear for two generations, even since David’s grandfather founded the place. They have interpreted the Bible specifically enough that they are convinced that they know exactly what a person should look like. And God decreed that man should have one body, one head, two arms and two legs: that each arm should be jointed in two places and end in one hand: that each hand should have four fingers and one thumb… (ch 1) This limited view of life extends to their burning crops and plants that are deviant from what they expect. Therefore there is no change, and no evolution. The people are stuck where they have always been, and they refuse to allow change.
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