The main theme represented in this book is a religious one. The author shows how religion rules people's lives. Wyndham gives us different aspects of religious beliefs in the novel. Everyone believes in the same religion but they have varying degrees of belief. Joseph believes strongly and he represents the religious right. Axel doesn't believe anymore and he represents the religious left. David is struggling with his beliefs. Harriet once believed but hates the religion that forces her to destroy her child. The religious motif is strong in this novel. I think Wyndham shows us a little of his views on religion as well. I think he sets out to show us and teach us not to let religion rule our lives, and not to use religion as an excuse to do things we know are wrong.
. Another theme in the novel is: what makes a man a man? Wyndham asks this question in the book in the voice of Uncle Axel, and continues asking it throughout the book.
Is it a man's body that makes him what he is? If he has three legs, is he still a man? Wyndham does answer for us by telling us that it is mind that makes a man a man. Axel says that everywhere you go everyone believes that they are the true image of god. Who's right? Who determines who's right. Which group has the right to call themselves true man? Another theme in the novel is one about the effects of nuclear war. The Chrysalids occurs in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Mutation is rampant and the lives of the people focuses on recovering from the after-effects of the war. Through the use of selective mating and the destruction of all mutatation, the people of Waknuk hope to rise back up to the level of perfection the human body was at before the nuclear catastrophe happened.
Wyndham sets out to make us think about what could happen to us, should a nuclear war occur. We are always on the brink of nuclear war. Should it happen, our lives will not be that much different from the people represented in the novel. I think Wyndham hopes to make us think about this and thus prevent nuclear war. The description of the Badlands, the fact that it takes thousands of years for the Earth to recover from such a catastrophe, if She ever does should make us take steps to stop nuclear war from happening.
Another theme in the novel is the one about Stagnation. Joseph Strorm and the people of Waknuk fight change and evolution. They want to return to the past, to the time when the old people lived. In order to do this they kill anything that is new and different. This is why they destroy the mutants but the mutants are the future. Because of Tribulation there will always be mutation. It will never go away. Things adapt and change because it is the only way they can survive. Wyndham uses Joseph to show the foolishness of trying to stop evolution from happening. Joseph is even willing to kill his children to prevent change. He is intollerant of anything he deems blasphemy and uses religion to justify his evil behavior.