After David sees Sophie’s foot, the two start playing together regularly. One day they go to see a steam-engine that was left behind by the Old People, which is a source of pride for the people of Waknuk. Sophie tells David that her father, John Wender, thinks that people exaggerate the abilities of the Old People. The two of them discuss whether or not the Old People were able to fly. Sophie insists that if the Old People had been able to fly, she and David would be able to as well, which she takes as evidence that they couldn’t. David tells her that there are many things the Old People could do that he and she cannot. He considers telling Sophie about his dream of a city with metal fish in the sky, but decides to keep it a secret.
Sophie’s insistence that the Old People could not fly because she and David cannot fly stems from the Waknukian belief that as time passes, society is progressing and getting better. It is therefore inconceivable to her that the Old People might have had more advanced technology than the Waknukians do. David, on the other hand, does not take this traditional belief as fact. Rather than putting faith in the stories taught to him, he instead believes what he has observed and experienced in his dream about an Old People city.
Sophie and David leave the steam-engine and return to Sophie’s house. Her father is home, and he is wary of David because he knows about his daughter’s foot. David tells the reader that if John Wender had known about something else that had happened a month after David met Sophie, he would have had more faith in David’s ability to keep a secret.
David shows an understanding of the fact that verbal reassurance is not enough to convince Sophie’s father that he will keep her secret. Instead, David thinks that John might have trusted him more had he had proof based on David’s actions.
David tells us that the incident began when he got a bad splinter and tried to bandage his hand by himself. When his mother scolded him for doing a poor job, he told her that he “could have managed all right by myself if I’d had another hand.” This statement shocked his family and his father became enraged. David tells us that at the time, he was not able to explain to his family that he did not actually want a third hand, but rather had simply chosen a clumsy way of expressing frustration over needing his mother’s help.
David struggles to convey his intentions to his father through words. Indeed, words, and the fact that he needed to verbalize his thoughts in order to communicate them (and in doing so muddled them), are the very things that get him into trouble. Even after the incident with Sophie’s toe, David has not attached enough meaning to the sayings that decorate his house to know that he should not wish for a third hand out loud.
David’s father accuses him of asking the Devil for a third hand, and then admonishes him for lying when David protests. Joseph tells David that he has “blasphemed” by wishing his body were different and for finding “fault with the Norm.” He makes David repeat phrases that he has learned in Sunday school, like “The Norm is the Image of God,” and reminds David that a Mutant is “accursed in the sight of God and man.” Then Joseph sends David to his room to pray for forgiveness.
To Joseph, David’s momentary desire for a third hand is a great sin because it suggests that David thinks that the Image of God is inadequate. Unlike David, Joseph puts a great deal of faith in the power of words, making David repeat phrases and sending David to pray for forgiveness.
David lies in bed and thinks about the events of the day. Seeing his father’s response to simply thinking about the benefits of having three hands makes him wonder what would happen if to him if he actually had three hands. He falls asleep and dreams about the most recent Purification, in which a calf was slaughtered for being hairless. In David’s dream version, Sophie is in the place of the calf and his father slits her throat. David tells the reader that the Wenders would not have worried about his ability to keep Sophie’s Deviation a secret if they had known how upset he was by this dream.
The severity of Joseph’s reaction to David’s wish for a third hand shows David how committed his father is to ridding Waknuk of impurities. His dream suggests that his father values purity over life itself, and will not hesitate to kill those who deviate from the norm. That the dream connects Sophie to the calf and upsets David indicates that he instinctively chooses life and friendship over purity. The murder in the dream bears strong resemblances to lynchings of African Americans in the American South, the murder of Jews in the Holocaust, and the killings in the Great Purge in the Soviet Union, all done in the dubious name of preserving “purity”.