Allegiant Ch20-21

Last time, so many answers, all of them terrible and most of them without questions to go with. Today, no matter how hard I bang the exposition train won’t stop or even move to a more interesting rail.

Tobias comes with Nita and learns she has a tattoo of broken glass on her back because she’s got broken genes and Tobias slooooooooowly gets that maybe this is a big deal people are unhappy about.

“Support staff is more than just a job. Almost all of us are GDs—genetically damaged, leftovers from the failed city experiments or the descendants of other leftovers or people pulled in from the outside, like Tris’s mother, except without her genetic advantage. And all of the scientists and leaders are GPs—genetically pure, descendants of people who resisted the genetic engineering movement in the first place. There are some exceptions, of course, but so few I could list them all for you if I wanted to.”
I am about to ask why the division is so strict, but I can figure it out for myself. The so-called “GPs” grew up in this community, their worlds saturated by experiments and observation and learning. The “GDs” grew up in the experiments, where they only had to learn enough to survive until the next generation. The division is based on knowledge, based on qualifications—but as I learned from the factionless, a system that relies on a group of uneducated people to do its dirty work without giving them a way to rise is hardly fair.

And this is why I’m utterly sure that, even though some of the obvious fuckery is deliberate, we’re not going anywhere with it.

Nita just laid out the problem: if you’re a pureblood outsider, growing up starving, abused and probably with shit all for education, you get important jobs by virtue of blood. If you’re from the well-funded and protected experiments but have the wrong blood, you’re a janitor.

Tobias repeated this after apparently twenty invisible repetitions of telephone taking place in the time it takes to hit an enter key, which gives us experimental people who happen to coincidentally be impure are locked out because the experiments don’t actually educate them as he’s sure based on his complete lack of knowledge on the subject, and this is therefore exactly like the factionless, who are mostly made up of kids with the same education as the rest who fail faction initiation or adults who’ve also gotten a full faction education plus years of experience and were kicked out because they turned forty and their knees started to give out.

And then what he gets from this is that merit-based job selection is wrong. That’s what you take from this. From a situation where they explicitly said that in addition to screening people’s DNA they just hire their own kids. Yes, clearly it’s just that those people are so qualified and that’s the problem.

“I think your girl’s right, you know,” Nita says. “Nothing has changed; now you just have a better idea of your own limitations. Every human being has limitations, even GPs.”

Which is actually a very reasonable thing to say, so I assume it’ll turn out that Nita’s wrong to be so moderate in her criticism.

Tobias silently rages at it all while Nita leads her into a party with musicians. But it’s immediately interrupted by someone saying Marcus’ verdict is about to be announced. So, let’s learn more about how the real evil is the woman he beat.

I don’t know what I am so eager for—Marcus’s conviction? His exoneration? Do I hope that Evelyn finds him guilty and executes him, or do I hope that she spares him? I can’t tell. To me each outcome feels like it is made of the same substance. Everything is either Marcus’s evil or Marcus’s mask, Evelyn’s evil or Evelyn’s mask.

Christ.

In the trial, Tobias observes that Marcus is being his real self while Evilyn is evilly acting reasonable.

“I and the former representatives of the factions have had a lot to consider. Your years of service, the loyalty you have inspired among your faction members, my lingering feelings for you as my former husband . . .”
I snort.
“I am still your husband,” Marcus says. “The Abnegation do not allow divorce.”

Holy shit.

And the Abnegation are supposedly good. The good faction believes marriage is an inescapable prison. The good faction believes you can have sex with one person ever and that’s it. And this is absolutely author-endorsed because she went through so much trouble to explain that Tobias is totally a virgin not like those other Dauntless.

“They do in cases of spousal abuse,” Evelyn replies

That doesn’t actually fix the problem!

It is really good that religions that believe marriage is forever are capable of recognizing sometimes this will hurt people horribly and they should make an exception. It’s kind of like how even most prolife people will let rape victims get abortions, down to the fact that a significant part of their grudging acceptance is that this is a situation where it isn’t the victim’s fault, and down to the fact that this results in a system where people have to choose between being forced into something or lying and also results in a system that questions and pressures people who say this to make sure they’re “really” deserving of it and not lying about it. Like, okay, maybe you were hospitalized from the beating but is it really that he’s abusive or are you two just fighting, or maybe you tricked him into doing it because you wanted the divorce.

And did this result in Abnegation responding to accusations of abuse with “I bet you’re just saying that to get a divorce, you cheating harlot?” Well, we know that it was Evelyn who was about to get kicked out rather than Marcus. So yes.

Tobias then informs us this is totally a sympathy play, probably because he was raised Abnegation and taught women manipulate people with their claims of abuse. He then tells us that he knows it’ll end with her killing Marcus. No shit, we’ve only known that since last book. The author continues to shocking revelation us about stuff everyone knows.

“Given your record of service to this city, we have decided on an alternate solution. You will not, unlike the other former faction representatives, be forgiven and allowed to consult on issues regarding this city. Nor will you be executed as a traitor. Instead, you will be sent outside the fence, beyond the Amity compound, and you will not be allowed to return.

Why don’t they just exile everyone? Please god let this be a sign they’re just going to exile everyone. It makes sense, and I know that just means it’s more unlikely the book won’t do it, but please please please. I’ll even forgive you for how Marcus never fucking dies if it leads to something that makes sense!

Next, we go to Tris, who says they’re going to get an “attack drill” where they lock doors and wait. No further explanation.

Most of us woke up late, at ten, I suspect because there was no reason not to. When we left the city, we lost our factions, our sense of purpose. Here there is nothing to do but wait for something to happen, and far from making me feel relaxed, it makes me feel jittery and tense. I am used to having something to do, something to fight, all the time. I try to remind myself to relax.

Tris, it’s been like a month or two. You still spent most of your life not being Dauntless and having to deal with issues without punching them. I know it sucked, but you did.

How about Ever since joining Dauntless, I am used to having something to do, something to fight, all the time.? You could then go on to say that even back in ill-fitting Abnegation, you had a purpose and a role, even if it was simply watching everyone else in anticipation of them needing you to jump up and help them. You could go on to talk about how maybe that’s what the real value of the factions was, it gave everyone a 24/7 job to occupy them, so they always knew what their role in a crisis was. Good lead-in to wondering if maybe Jeanine was sort of right, that maybe leaving the city for the outside world is a mistake, that factions are the only answer regardless of genes. Hey, maybe tell Tobias that, since after all, the same guy who said Tobias was broken also said that within factions there’s no difference between the two. That’d also give you something non-contrived to fight about given Tobias hates factions.

I mean, sure, we didn’t see it working out well, but even during the civil war, the factions that still had functioning roles did best: Dauntless formed up and started looking for ways to fight back. Amity just focused on keeping their own area peaceful. Erudite continued to research and plot. It’s only Candor that’s really adrift, and that makes sense – honesty as a driving force only works with either bravery or safety. They’d been safe a very long time, and they’d discouraged bravery. Under different leadership, they might have managed to pull together – and perhaps part of their problem was having their faith shook in their truth drug. Tris and Tobias did choke out the truth, but it clearly didn’t work very well and they managed to avoid saying anything unrelated. They’re not aware specifically of how Tris managed to intentionally skip over shooting her friend, but they must be aware something like that is an option, and it’s very hard to know exactly what to ask. So right when they need to come together most, one of their core supports got damaged and they weren’t sure what was going on.

Come to think of it, the truth serum was probably an unhealthy crutch – like keeping the training wheels on a bike forever, then demanding they get on a unicycle. Back when they had time and things were under control, they probably kicked all important decisions into the truth serum pile to be absolutely sure they didn’t make a mistake, leaving them with no idea how to function during the coup since Erudite wasn’t walking in offering to do a truth serum interview. Might be why Candor seemed like the least healthy faction, we were seeing them more out of their element than any other.

Tris tries to talk to him about the plane ride and he’s all touchy about it, then she asks if he’s okay.

“Well, yesterday carried quite the revelation,” he says, putting his forehead into his hand. “You can’t really blame me for being upset about it.”
“I mean, you can be upset about whatever you want,” I say, frowning. “But from my perspective, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to be upset about. I know it’s a shock, but as I said, you’re still the same person you were yesterday and the day before, no matter what these people say about it.”
He shakes his head. “I’m not talking about my genes. I’m talking about Marcus. You really have no idea, do you?”

Except he referenced yesterday. Unless he’s talking about the revelation yesterday that his dad would be on trial, which is only a revelation in that seriously why is Marcus not dead yet. I think the author lost track of this conversation halfway through. She knew she wanted to do the thing where Tris comforted him about the one thing and he got upset because the issue is the other, and forgot that Tobias identified the subject as “my genes” right there a second ago.

Then the drill happens.

They are loud, screeching, so painful to listen to that I can barely think, let alone move.

That’s dumb.

The main purpose of an alarm is to get people’s attention, waking them up if necessary.

In things like schools and dorms, you also want the alarm to be painful enough no one would want to stick around. But, say, our home fire alarm is just at the distinctive wakeup level of noise. When it goes off, it’s irritating, not agonizing.

If your drills are based around staying where you are, you wouldn’t want a sound designed to encourage people out the door. Aside from that being practically sadistic, it’s just bad practice – the painful sounds are incentive to leave the building because they don’t want people staying. Here, people are being given incentive to leave when the drill is supposed to get them to stay put. And it means that in the event of an attack, you can’t think straight.

Tris says she’s read a little of her mom’s notes already.

the strange cleanliness of the place, how everyone smiled all the time

So either the pure are just inherently better or this place is getting enough funding that all the problems elsewhere don’t touch it.

Today I volunteered to go inside the city. David said the Divergent are dying and someone has to stop it, because that’s a waste of our best genetic material. I think that’s a pretty sick way to put it, but David doesn’t mean it that way—he just means that if it wasn’t the Divergent dying, we wouldn’t intervene until a certain level of destruction, but since it’s them it has to be taken care of now.

So he does mean it that way is what you’re saying.

I’m young enough that it will be easy to insert me—just wipe and resupply a few people’s memories, and I’m in.

“A few” being presumably half of Dauntless (any adults with any interaction with the kids or her fake family, all kids in her general age range) plus teachers at the school and kids in her classes. Maybe the author forgot that this isn’t like a regular American city, where families can float about as self-contained units. Tris has to explain that Tobias was never around to justify not knowing him already. Each faction’s kids sit together at their tables, and while you might be able to sneak in an extra Abnegation kid, since we’re told they all dress the same and don’t talk to anyone, Dauntless should be the opposite. Supposedly, she’s got to be Dauntless because she’s tattooed (…so she left home at thirteen, already tattooed? Or she got them after joining the lab?) but Abnegation covers themselves head to toe so who would ever know?

Supposedly, the only problem with all this is that the person killing divergent is in Erudite, and she’s worried she won’t pass initiation, except we learned from the former Erudite factionless last book that Erudite accepts everyone, your score just determines if you do the experiments or scrub the labware afterwards.

David says it doesn’t matter, he can alter my results, but that feels wrong. Even if the Bureau thinks the factions don’t mean anything, that they’re just a kind of behavioral modification that will help with the damage, those people believe they do, and it feels wrong to play with their system.

Where does she get her sense of morality? First she’s telling us that killing is always evil even when it’s an accident in self-defense, now she’s explaining the fake religion invented to control them shouldn’t be manipulated because they totally believe in it and THAT’S more important than stopping someone from killing.

It’s going to be difficult to send my updates—someone might notice that I’m connecting to a distant server instead of an intra-city server

HOW WOULD ANYONE EVER NOTICE THAT WHAT THE FUCK

WHY WOULD THEY EVEN LOOK FOR THAT? THEY DON’T THINK ANYTHING OUTSIDE EXISTS!

Dear David,
I’m sorry, but it’s not going to happen the way we planned it. I can’t do it. I know you’re just going to think I’m being a stupid teenager, but this is my life and if I’m going to be here for years, I have to do this my way. I’ll still be able to do my job from outside of Erudite. So tomorrow, at the Choosing Ceremony, Andrew and I are going to choose Abnegation together.
I hope you’re not angry. I guess even if you are, I won’t hear about it.

So even YA backstory has stupid fuck-responsibility-I’m-in-love now.

Of course, she didn’t manage to stop the killings and then wasn’t in the position to do anything about the coup. Meanwhile, her husband started feeding the factionless and last book explained repeatedly that feeding those thugs is the reason they evilly rose up against the noble factionless tyranny.

Tris, in what admittedly makes sense what with her hatred of turning her brain on, just thinks it’s so sweet her parents loved each other.

Enough to defy “faction before blood.” Blood before faction—no, love before faction, always.

Two things come to mind.

First, lovers going to a faction together is obviously a thing already, since the Dauntless transfers have an established couple and even one where one half is obviously far more suited for it than the other – it’s almost certain she picked Dauntless to stay with him. No one finds this remarkable. It’s not before faction at all.

Second, actual love before faction should be the highest taboo, for the reasons outlined in the bit about “Dauntless-Erudite bastard children”. Factions do not mix. I suspect fear of divided loyalties is part of why even the kids are kept separate – sure, they could end up choosing the same faction together, but that’s a big decision, and there are going to be kids who choose otherwise but are still in love with someone they can’t marry.

(Ooh, here’s an idea for how to do a YA romance in Divergent’s setting – two gay kids are in love and split by faction, in a situation where someone understood genetics and that if you’re trying to fix their DNA you don’t want two different alterations crossbreeding. Have gay marriage not be an issue, thus allowing the metaphor of banning marriage being wrong while also having gay marriage be normalized and showing it isn’t a universal absolute that gay people suffer in all societies forever and you might as well just give up now.)

4 Comments

  1. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    For a society that’s supposedly (secretly) based around breeding for genetic purity, Chicago didn’t have nearly enough pressure to choose the “right” partner and get breeding. Even if we assume some sort of resource constraint pointed to keeping the population at just the replacement rate, and that they were doing it through delaying marriage because they’re too stupid to have a contraception serum (but no — the Dauntless have contraception), “I’ve got X years before this becomes an issue of picking the right spouse… my aunt Y was majorly into Z but was strongly discouraged from that match and I’ve never understood why” should be a thing.

    From the way that kids don’t appear to have picked up information about the adult world by playing quietly while the grown-ups gossiped, I’d almost believe children were segregated into creches, but we know they weren’t.

    1. Farla says:
      While it’d make sense for them to be able to influence that, they seem to really struggle to affect the city. Also, I don’t think they have any real grasp of genetics beyond that there’s genes and a fix was attempted but it’ll only show up in future generations maybe.

      What they should be pushing for, though, is having more kids, especially given it seems like it’s really hard to get volunteers for this. There either aren’t food shortages or there are but because Amity is lazy, and regardless they could stretch the food much farther if they changed to better crops. If you have no real idea how genetics works, the last resort is just try to get as many babies as you can and hope some of them have the features you want.

  2. Siobhan says:
    Another argument for Natalie making more sense to be put in Abnegation first – as the people in power, they’d have more knowledge of the world outside. Placing her in one of their families would give them the chance to feel like they’re proper Abnegation – they’ll even take on others from outside of the faction system! – but also, they couldn’t boast about what they’d done, because it would go against the grain of Abnegation.

    It would have been far more interesting to learn that Abnegation was full of planted outsider spies, all whose genes were healed (to explain the increase of Divergent in Abnegation) and would have given Janine basis for her accusations. I would have loved to have seen Tris’ world turned upside down as she realised that she was one of the few born into Abnegation, and then she would have had a real conflict of trust, because who around her didn’t know the truth about the outside influence of the government? What could she have done, even in her new position in Dauntless, to stop that sort of corruption and deceit? That would have made for a brilliant dystopian.

    1. Farla says:
      That’s have been a really good patch for why they were producing a weird number of divergent kids. Presumably the original explanation had to do with selflessness = mirror neurons = divergent.

      Plus it’d have kept Abnegation relevant, as opposed to wiped out and then never an issue again.

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