A Comparison of The Chrysalids and 1984


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A comparison of life in London, Air Strip One (or Great Britain) in the George Orwell novel '1984' and Waknuk, Canada in the John Wyndham novel 'The Chrysalids.' Waknuk is a society living after a nuclear attack. The people of Air Strip One (or Britain) in 1984 live in a dictatorship controlled by "The Party".


            Waknuck is an enclosed society similar to Victorian Britain. As people spend all their lives in the town or city they are born they can't experience different cultures and therefore have a lack of tolerance and understanding for differences in the lifestyles of these cultures. The lack of experience of different cultures is not the reason for a lack of a true understanding of these cultures in 1984. The people of London are effectively poisoned against such cultures by the Party and so have no reason to want to experience them.  

 

             Waknuck is also based largely on Religion - it is a Christian society. Most of the prejudices are formed from the Bible. Any creature that is against "the true image of God" (or a mutant) is called a Blasphemy. The Christian religion (and indeed other religions) have been the source of numerous prejudices in modern society in Britain (for example sexism and homophobia) and indeed conflicts (for example the conflicts between the Republic and Northern Ireland). In the novel '1984' no-one follows a religion as such, as far as the people of Britain in 1984 are concerned there is no God, the complete opposite of the radical religious views of the people of Waknuk. Most people in Waknuk have been 'brainwashed' by Christianity in the same way many people in Great Britain in 1984 have been 'brainwashed' by the party and Big Brother. Each use repetitive slogans, in 1984 such slogans as: "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." are used and more subtly in Christianity in the form of prays and commandments. The Party and Christians each worship a figure, Big Brother and God respectively, neither people can be completely sure of  there presence but convince themselves that they exist nevertheless. The power lies with the Party in 1984 but lies with the church in Waknuk.

 

            The people of Waknuk are unable to comprehend theories such as the Evolution Theory dispute finding fossils and other evidence that would conflict with Genesis.

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In 1984 conflicting evidence is rarely available and so it is easier for the Party to control the beliefs of its members. Moments in history are constantly altered and exactly what is fact and what is fiction is never quite understood. 

 

             In each society conformity is required for survival. Those who do not conform to the true image are forced to leave Waknuk and live in the Fringes and live similarly to prehistoric man as savages. In 1984 those who do not conform are vaporized. The situation of society of the Fringes is similar to that of the Proles in 1984, each rejected by the 'normal population'  and forced to live away from it in designated areas.  The Proles are closest to what life is like in Great Britain today. Modern views and ideas are very rare in Waknuk.  

 

             Both in Waknuk and 1984 an ideal is constantly trying to be met. In Waknuk this ideal is to "fight unceasingly against the evils that tribulation loosed upon [Waknuk]"  while in 1984 it is to have a society totally under control by Big Brother. In both societies there are those who refuse to conform. Uncle Axcel represents this in the Chrysalids and Winston represents this in 1984.   

 

            The Chrysalids is set in the future. But society has regressed, almost started again. Prejudges in the Chrysalids often has echoes of Hitler's Germany. Purity of the race is often discussed suggesting similar fascism as the persecution of the Jews during the second world war. Female blasphemes (those who do not conform to the true image as God) are sterilized before being sent to the fringes.

 

            In both societies there is evidence of children being taught how to live the 'correct way'. Indeed in both novels there a hints that loyalty to ones country is becoming more important that loyalty to your family and friends. As shown by Aunt Hatrriot in the Chrysalids as she refuses to help her sister keep her child (who would be taken to the fringes) and mean her husband would divorce her.

 

            Love is practically absent in both societies especially in 1984. Sex is corruption out of wedlock and serves only the function of propagation of the species, a good example of how the people of 1984 are used as instruments for the use of Big Brother. In Waknuk if a married couple have children and three of them turn out to be deviations then the husband has the chance to 'trade in' his wife. This seems similar to instances in a medieval society when one member of a couple was infertile the blame fell to the women, as men were considered superior (as they are in Waknuk).

 

            The outlook for the future of each society is very different. The party may one day be overcome by another county or the Proles. This is unlikely. The people of London no longer have any say over the running of the country, it is devoid of democracy. The population is based on war, hate and anger. They have no reason to live other than to serve a Party which completely controls them. As children are brought up they are taught lies by the Party and go on believing those lies for the rest of there lives. The Party has too much power and will doubtless never give it up.  Waknuk should improve, the novel is set in the future but society has regressed, almost started again.  It has airs of many different periods of history. Similar fascism has gone on in our pasts but is always being overcome as the ideal of equality grows faster. Today we are growing more tolerant of different types of people however in the past people were (and to a large extent still are) discriminated against because of their religion, colour, ideas, sex or because of a disability.

 

The message of the book is not to discriminate against people because of what their appearance or what they think because (as represented by David and Sophie) they are only guilty of standing out of the crowd, not being bad or evil. If this theory is correct, Waknuk has only been set back a couple of thousand years in history its people will come to learn as we have today that differences are a part of life and do nothing more than make it a little more interesting.


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