One day David’s Uncle Axel, who lives with David and his family, comes across David, who appears to be talking to himself. Uncle Axel jokingly suggests that it would be more entertaining to talk to other people. Because David trusts Uncle Axel, he tells him that he was actually talking to Rosalind, his cousin. Once Uncle Axel understands that David is able to communicate telepathically to Rosalind, he makes David promise never to tell anyone about his ability. When David explains that he does not need to use words to communicate with Rosalind, but rather can send her wordless images and thoughts, Uncle Axel also suggests that he no longer carry out these conversations out loud. He tells David to have Rosalind promise to do the same.
Having witnessed his father’s wrath over the incident with Sophie, it says a great deal that David trusts Uncle Axel enough to tell him about his ability to communicate with people who are not physically present. That he carries out his conversation with Rosalind out loud and in the open, however, is a testament to the fact that David has not fully realized the dangers of being different in his society.
David tells the reader that at the time of this conversation, he does not inform Uncle Axel that there are others (besides Rosalind) with whom he can communicate this way, because he does not want to worry Uncle Axel more. He does, however, tell the other people with whom he can communicate telepathically (but whose names he does not yet know) about his conversation with Uncle Axel. While none of them had agreed to keep their abilities secret, none of them had told anyone else about them either. The gravity of Uncle Axel’s warning concerns the group, and they make a pact to keep their ability a secret. David tells the reader that it was this pact that formally made the group a group. He notes that at the time of the decision, they were mostly interested in distributing the burden of their secret, but that in retrospect, this was an important act of “self-preservation.”
The discussion among the group in which they decide to keep their ability a secret is an important moment that makes previously unstated things more concrete. First, it defines the group as a group. Second, the discussion of Uncle Axel’s reaction solidifies the idea that bad things would occur if anyone else were to find out about their telepathy. They do not, however, fully understand the lengths to which their community would go to persecute them for their abilities if they were made known.
Soon after this, a group from the Fringes launches an invasion of Waknuk. David’s father organizes a counter-attack, during which the Waknuk militia captures a few Fringe leaders. A group of soldiers brings the prisoners into town. David expects them to look strange or deformed, but to him they look like unwashed but otherwise ordinary men.
David is surprised to see that people from the Fringes do not look as monstrous as his bedtime stories suggested they would. Like his confusion over Sophie’s mutation, David’s tendency to see those considered less-than-human as normal is rare in his town.
David is shocked when he realizes that the leader of the captives looks almost exactly like his father. His father notices the man as well, and when the two make eye contact, the Fringe leader returns his gaze with a look of hatred so intense that David does not forget it for the rest of his life. When the leader dismounts from his horse, David realizes that he is a foot-and-a-half taller than a normal man. The man motions for David to come closer, and when he does, he asks David who his father is and whether the town is called Waknuk. David replies that his father is Joseph Strorm and that this is, indeed, Waknuk. Then the man is taken way. David later learns that the man managed to escape back into the Fringes that night. David is upset by the encounter, but knows better than to ask his father for clarification.
The silent exchange between Joseph and the man that looks like him makes clear to David that his father must know this Fringe leader in someway. The intensity of the man’s hatred is such that David never forgets his expression. This hatred foreshadows the violence that will erupt between the two brothers (for they are brothers) later in the book. That David knows not to ask his dad more about the man demonstrates to the reader how vehemently Joseph Strorm despises Mutants. Even Blasphemies that physically resemble him are despicable in his eyes.
Soon after, Joseph Strorm gets into an argument with Angus Morton, with whom he has a long-standing disagreement, over whether or not the “great-horses” which Angus has newly acquired constitute an Offense. Joseph complains to the Inspector that the horses look wrong, but the Inspector tells him that the great-horses are Government-sanctioned. Joseph argues that any government that would approve these horses is “immoral,” to which the Inspector responds that while that may be true, Joseph must obey their rulings. The Inspector further explains that the breed was created simply by mating for size, and thus they are still “normal.” Joseph becomes increasingly upset. He believes that by listening to the Government’s ruling, he is betraying God. He asserts that even if the Government cannot properly identify an Offense, he can. At church the next day, Joseph rails against the Inspector, who, in turn, threatens Government sanctions against Joseph.
The great-horses symbolize something that should be pure, but is now unclean. Joseph hates this impurity so much that he wants them killed, simply because they look incorrect. His belief that the regulating of Offenses is not a legal issue, but a moral one, leads him to speak against the government to a Government official. Further, he believes so profoundly that moral inadequacies manifest themselves physically in living things that he is certain he can tell what is made in the Image of God, even if the Government can’t. He stops at nothing to adhere to his faith.
David’s father is so unpleasant to be around during this time that David spends most of his time teaching Sophie what he learns in school, since her parents have kept her out of school so that no one will discover her extra toe. He tells Sophie that Waknuk is in Labrador, and that when the Old People lived, it was a very cold place. Below Labrador are the Badlands, which are extremely dangerous. David explains to Sophie that no one knows how long ago the Old People lived, nor do they know how many years passed between Tribulation and the beginning of known history. The Bible is the only surviving text from the time of the Old People, as is Repentences from Tribulation.
For the first time in the novel, Wyndham gives the reader a clearer sense of where the book is set. The name “Labrador,” a Canadian province, confirms that the story is taking place on Earth. This is a much-changed Earth, however, because Canada is no longer cold. Much of history is a mystery to the Waknukians because little survived Tribulation. That they take religious texts as facts is not such a surprise, then, as there are no other sources of knowledge to turn to.
In his Ethics class, David learns that civilization is “in the process of climbing back into grace.” There is only one correct path for civilization to follow, and if mankind follows it, the people of Labrador will regain everything they lost in Tribulation. David tells Sophie that this path is difficult to discern, however, and so the people must rely on the decisions of “the authorities” as a guide to how to live. While no one knows why Tribulation occurred, it was the greatest punishment of all time and likely was a response to a period of “irreligious arrogance.” David does not tell Sophie, however, that the purpose of life is to fight against the evils, or Offenses, created by Tribulation so that mankind can return to the good graces of God.
Like Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and many other systems of belief in our present time, the Waknukian religion espouses the idea that following a certain moral path will lead to redemption. This religion, however, also puts forward the dangerous idea that anything that is impure should be destroyed. David’s school entrenches in the mind of its pupils that authority rather than personal experience is the only true source of knowledge and certainty.