David’s Uncle Axel discovers David one day talking out loud alone. David is talking to his cousin Rosalind Morton, with whom he can communicate telepathically using “thought shapes.” Although he can communicate without words, saying the words out loud helps makes these communications clearer. Uncle Axel warns David against this dangerous practice, for the safety of both David and Rosalind. David does not reveal to Uncle Axel that there are others too who can communicate via thoughts. David telepathically conveys his concerns to the rest of the group of people with whom he communicates, and they promise each other to keep their talent a secret.
The Fringes invade the Waknuk community. The Waknuk community organizes its forces, and two members of the Fringes forces are captured. They are brought into the town as prisoners. David is disappointed to see that the Fringes leaders appear much like normal humans, not with two heads or other strange abnormalities, as he expected. One is a man with very long spider-like limbs; he looks a lot like David’s father. David has a brief conversation with the man, in which the man asks who his father is and whether they are in Waknuk. Later David hears that both of the Fringes leaders escaped.
Sometime after this incident, Joseph Strorm and Angus Morton have a disagreement about two new “great-horses” that Angus recently purchased. The horses are much larger than normal horses, and in Joseph Strorm’s opinion they should be considered an Offence, a result of genetic mutation. Much to Joseph’s dismay, the inspector tells him that the horses are Government-approved. While Joseph would like to challenge this fact, he knows that he would risk much in challenging it. At one point, Joseph believed his neighbors' (the Dakers') tailless cat was an abomination, and disposed of it himself, before the official decision came back that the cat was part of a recognized breed; thus, Joseph had to publicly apologize.
David describes his schooling, and how he has begun to share his knowledge with Sophie. Sophie cannot go to school because she does not have a certificate verifying her identity in the community. The world David learned of in school is made up of Labrador, the larger “civilized” area that surrounds Waknuk. Labrador is located on the bigger island of Newf. To the east, north, and north-west, Labrador is surrounded by sea. To the south and south-west, there is land and Badlands. Labrador is thought to have been a cold land when the Old People lived there, although now the winter only lasts about two months due to the effects of Tribulation. The current civilization is unsure how long the Old People lived there before Tribulation occurred. The only surviving text from the Old People is the Bible. The other text is Nicholson’s Repentances, which was discovered in a stone coffer hundreds of years after it was written. The other course David takes is Ethics, where he learns about man’s fall from grace and the current efforts that are being made to climb back into grace. This would lead to a restoration of the Golden Age, if the current civilization does not fall into the same sinful traps as the Old People did, which is what caused the “penance” of Tribulation. David does not tell Sophie much about ethics, since the emphasis in these teachings is on keeping true to the human form as defined by their strict texts.
The stock and crops in this season are “pure” and David spends his time avoiding work and sneaking away to play with Sophie. They fish in the stream and catch tadpoles. One day, an older child named Alan Ervin interrupts them. Sophie sneaks away, but Alan sees one of her 6-toed footprints on a rock and begins to question David about Sophie. David and Alan fight, and the fight ends when Sophie hits Alan over the head with a rock.
Sophie and David go to Sophie’s home and recount the situation to her parents. Mr. and Mrs. Wender decide they need to flee with Sophie. David desperately wants to go with them, but the Wenders know they cannot take him. Sophie gives David a lock of her hair to keep. The Wenders ask David to stay the night at their home in order to give them a head start on their journey. When David returns to his home in the morning, the inspector comes to question him. He is accused of concealment of a Blasphemy, a major crime. David tries to reveal as little as possible about Sophie and her family. His father punishes him for his concealment by whipping him. Mary later comes to dress David wounds, and David cries into his pillow, muttering to Sophie that he couldn't help what he did.
David telepathically communicates to the other telepaths what he knows about what happened with Sophie. The others are not completely convinced that a Deviation like Sophie’s might not be disgusting and evil. David sleeps and has the dream where Sophie is being sacrificed, and this time he shouts to his father to stop. When he wakes, David is told by Mary to spend the day healing in bed from his whipping wounds. He begins to concoct a plan of how he will run away.
The inspector comes with a bag of candy, and interviews David about Sophie and the Wenders. The inspector reveals that Blasphemies (of humans) are not treated the same way as Offences (of stock), but does not reveal more than that. The inspector concludes by reminding David that the Devil sent Sophie as an imitation of the human form. As the inspector is about to leave, David’s father comes in to announce the Wenders were caught. A moment later, the inspector comes back in to comfort David by telling him they were caught by a chance patrol, not because of David.
A few days later David tells his Uncle Axel he has plans to run away. His Uncle Axel advises against it, advising him to wait until he is older and can do it more safely. Uncle Axel also tells David about his experience as a sailor, and seeing the lands beyond Labrador. Most people believe that everything outside of Labrador is Fringes or Badlands, but Uncle Axel reveals that sailors have stories of lands that are habitable, as well as other civilizations. The first person to question whether Badlands could become habitable again was an explorer named Marther, and the church punished him for it. Around the same time, a ship called Venture returned from a long journey, carrying unknown spices, with stories of other civilizations full of “mutants.” These civilizations are living with genetic mutations as well, but each community has its own set of beliefs as to why its genetic mutation makes them the “true form” of humans. Uncle Axel tells of tribes of people who are hairless and think people with hair are from the devil, or people with webbed fingers and toes, or a tribe that only allows multi-breasted women to bear children. Interestingly, many of these peoples have the same legends of the Old People: that they could fly and communicate with others miles away. Uncle Axel reveals that this consistency in myths of the Old People causes him to ask questions: what is the true form of human, and did Nicholson really know in Repentances what the true form was?
David asks Uncle Axel if he thinks there might be a city like the one he sees in his dreams. Uncle Axel says that he has not heard of anything like that, and David is disappointed because he had hoped to run away to that place. Uncle Axel continues his talk of what may really make up the true image, and concludes by telling David that it’s possible that he is closer to the true image because he can communicate with others miles away, like they say the Old People could. David then tells Uncle Axel that there are more people like him. He reveals that recently one of them dropped out of communication, and David’s group is concerned that it could be because the child was discovered. Uncle Axel agrees to investigate.
Chapter 4 orients the reader to where Waknuk is located in the world: in the northeast part of what would have been Canada. However, the climate has changed and the area now only has about two months of winter. These chapters clarify Wyndham’s picture of what a post-apocalyptic world would look like in the face of a human-driven nuclear bombing or disaster–in this case, Tribulation: genetic mutation is the first clue of a nuclear disaster, and here climate change is also alluded to, as well as the physical land’s scarring as an after effect, seen in the Badlands and Blacklands described by Uncle Axel. The book begins to explore the “consequences of evolution for humanity” (Butler, 136)–not only in the technological evolution that resulted in the nuclear disaster, but in the evolution of the humans that survived.
Chapter 4 also introduces the first real “Fringes” people whom David meets. Unlike his expectations of them being like Hairy Jack and Old Maggie, they appear to be like normal men, and only the one, Spider-man, is slightly out of the average size with his long limbs. Again, David’s ideas of normality and abnormality are called into question: if these two men qualify as inhuman beings who belong in the Fringes, what is the real difference between human and inhuman?
Sophie’s capture and banishment to the Fringes plays into the theme of the intolerance of otherness. The inspector’s words about Sophie being sent by the Devil emphasize the religious fundamentalism behind Othering of people who do not fit the image. Uncle Axel’s discussion with David about the truth of the “True Image” of man by provides David with a broader view of the world, through Uncle Axel’s experience sailing. This is in juxtaposition to what David has already told the reader about what he learned in school regarding the ethics and morality behind preserving the True Image of man. Uncle Axel’s exposition reveals the extent of the different tribes and their different genetic mutations; as Jakober observes, “everyone is someone else’s mutant.” She describes the phenomenon of Othering, the process that humans use to determine someone is other based on difference (Jakober 29-30). Waknuk has taken this process to an extreme. However, Wyndham’s portrayal of this process in his characters allows his readers to look at their own society and ask how they might be classifying people as "other."
Uncle Axel's characterization in these chapters is as David's confidant and friend. Uncle Axel is a strong example of the theme of friendship that is present throughout the novel: without Uncle Axel's friendship, David would not be able to understand or see how his own abilities may not be something to be ashamed of. Uncle Axel is a catalyst for changing the way David thinks about his own abilities, and his own relationship to the True Image of the Old People. Although David still feels isolated from the rest of his society, his friendship with Axel is one of the main supports that help him not feel so alone.
Chapter 6 also introduces some of the first real imagery of what the Wild Country and Badlands and Blacklands are like: they are black wastelands, completely devoid of any life forms. They are an image of the post-nuclear-disaster world Wyndham imagines, burned and unable to regrow for many years. The lands portrayed are so toxic that when men go too close they usually die or changed forever as a result. This reflects the fears that emerged after the effects of the nuclear bombs in Japan were found to be farther reaching than originally thought. Also, it reflects the bleakness of the mood of the novel, a mood that depicts a world that humans have ruined.
David comes into his own power and dreams he has the tenacity to try and stop his father from sacrificing an offense, changing his original dream as a helpless observer. As an allegory, David challenges not only his father, but the way of life of “purity." This invites the question: which is more important, the purity of the human race or the dignity of a human life?