Allegiant Ch35-Ch37

Todias is sitting around using the cameras to stalk his parents. Cara comes over to point out he’s weird. Erudite continues to be the best at emotions because the author is that bad of a writer. Tobias then lampshades this fact.

We learn that the Allegiant have started doing stuff, and they contain all factions, which shows the factioners can work together in a pinch.

“The Allegiant are motivated by the desire to return to our original purpose in the city,” Cara says. “Whether that means sending a group of people outside of it, as instructed by Edith Prior—which we thought was important at the time, though I’ve since learned that her instructions didn’t really matter—or reinstating the factions by force.

Though this suggests it’s a very fragile alliance that’s working only so long no one talks about their long term goals. Also yet again, all Evilyn needs to do is just let anyone who wants to leave go and she’d gut her opposition.

I’m not sure she cares whether the factions survive or not, but she still cares about the people. I can tell by the way she watches the screens, eager but afraid.

Which yet again, more emotional than most of the characters. Even Tris’ whole OH NOES SLUMS wasn’t really about concern for those people, it was about feeling uncomfortable by getting it shoved in her face.

Marcus, of course. And Johanna—carrying a gun.
“Between them, they have managed to rally most of the loyal faction members to their cause.

Considering the movement was big enough under Johanna that she was already planning to begin strikes, how much exactly did Marcus add?

This would actually be a great time to mention that! Marcus’ whole conversation with Johanna was really manipulative, and it’d make sense if he actually didn’t add much – he’s clearly still good enough at controlling people in one-on-one conversations, but he’s not going to be good at rallying masses, plus the people most likely to follow him just because Abnegation leader were probably the first to join, while I don’t see what he adds to get the people on the fence to come over. Saying that she rallied most of them but he’s been taking over since then would tell us something new, and make it clearer that the Allegiant forces winning isn’t any sort of solution.

Surprisingly, though, the Allegiant still don’t outnumber the factionless.” The woman leans back in her chair and shakes her head. “There were far more factionless than we ever anticipated.

So, on the one hand, the factionless are compared to the slum-dwellers here, and Tris goes on about how horrible that is and how her mom must have wanted to be Abnegation to help people like that. On the other, all of the second book was explaining that the mistake with the factionless was feeding them so they grew in power instead of died off of starvation, and here we’re reminded that the problem is the factionless didn’t die.

That is honestly what’s happening:

It’s difficult to get an accurate population count on a scattered population, after all.”

They know how many adults are entering the factionless each year. The factionless do seem to have a few children, but they only started to get food when Tris was a kid herself, so any baby boom that resulted would be kids five-ten years younger than Tris, so the factionless army must be made up almost entirely of people who were born into a faction and then kicked out. The only way they couldn’t estimate factionless size from the number of people who failed initiation or left their faction is if they were counting on such huge numbers of those people to die that the number of people entering was completely irrelevant.

“Johanna? Leading a rebellion? With a weapon? That makes no sense,” Caleb says.

It makes particular sense given her conversation about how she suddenly recognizes the marks of abuse on Tobias and that Amity is for people like that, which means she herself didn’t pick Amity out of genetic inclination but to try to heal mental trauma. Amity must have always been a delicate thing, since some people would go there for temperament reasons and others because of abuse and fear. (And it looks like Abnegation kids who want to live a less grey existence also go there, and Abnegation appears to be pretty practical.) That’s probably why they were habitually drugging their entire populace, which doesn’t make sense with the idea that Amity should’ve been people genetically predisposed to peacefulness but makes perfect sense if they have a sizable number of people who aren’t. In our world, people who reject violence this utterly have to learn to do that, and so they can teach others the same thing. But if you’re genetically like that, then how can you know how to teach people who are different to act like you do?

Next we go back to Tris again.

I take off my bulletproof vest as soon as I get out, and offer it to Amar along with my gun. I’m uncomfortable holding it now, and I used to think that my discomfort would go away with time, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe it never will, and maybe that’s all right.

I like how long this has lasted. Books tend to fix things – sometimes, a point will be made about someone getting a permanent injury or something to mark the seriousness of the final battle or whatever, but that’s done as an ending capstone, we don’t deal with them any longer. Maybe a melancholy epilogue about how they’re scarred by their brush with heroism, and that’s it.

Warm air surrounds me as I pass through the doors. The compound looks cleaner than ever before, now that I’ve seen the fringe. The comparison is unsettling. How can I walk these squeaky floors and wear these starchy clothes when I know that those people are out there, wrapping their houses in tarp to stay warm?

Well, how did you do it back home because I seem to remember you having nicely starched clothes and a bed of your own while the factionless wore rags and slept next to open sewers.

Caleb is there and Tris explains she still doesn’t know how to deal with him, but she feels sad he’s finally left her alone after she punched him. He tells her about Johanna having a gun and how the scientists are all upset. Then she goes to see her boyfriend and explains to us that she’s figured out that that people aren’t perfect and she has to accept that.

“If we stay together, I’ll have to forgive you over and over again, and if you’re still in this, you’ll have to forgive me over and over again too,” I say. “So forgiveness isn’t the point. What I really should have been trying to figure out is whether we were still good for each other or not.”
All the way home I thought about what Amar said, about every relationship having its problems. I thought about my parents, who argued more often than any other Abnegation parents I knew, who nonetheless went through each day together until they died.

God, it’d be good to have seen this stuff.

Not only was her family’s relationship never shown before, but also, the problem is not forgiveness. The problem is Tobias refusing to accept he made a mistake by not listening to her, to the point he made the exact same mistake over again, then yelled at her when it turned out it was a mistake, acting the entire time like it was just bad luck it’d happened. That means this isn’t about forgiving someone for making a mistake, it’s about forgiving Tobias for the fact he did, does, and evidently will continue to treat her badly in this respect.

It’s particularly shitty given we know what he really thinks of her.

Then I thought of how strong I have become, how secure I feel with the person I now am, and how all along the way he has told me that I am brave, I am respected, I am loved and worth loving.

Not anymore, Tris. Now, he’s bitching because the respect you’ve earned from others is some mysterious power you were just handed, and he resents you for it.

I used to think that when people fell in love, they just landed where they landed, and they had no choice in the matter afterward. And maybe that’s true of beginnings, but it’s not true of this, now.
I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.

All of this would work so, so much better if we were just looking at it from Tris’ POV and not hearing all the shitty things he thinks. Also, if this time was the first time he’d ignored her advice, which would’ve made thinking it was due to Nita’s appearance make sense, as opposed to repeating last book’s plot there.

But if we pretend the entire Tobias sections never happened – this is actually a pretty good message. It’s just a shame it’s tied to saying that the shitty way he treats her is an example of the sort of thing girls just have to accept for love.

Perhaps agreeing with me that seeing Tobias’ side of things will just remind us of all that, we stick with Tris for the next chapter. She’s going to David’s cabal meeting, and tells us she’s a bit dopey because they’ve been testing improved truth serums on her to try to get one that’ll work. They should really be using Tobias for this because he seems to have normal levels of resistance, and also because there’s a really obvious problem with trying to get a working truth serum using the person you’re using to infiltrate the enemy.

At the meeting, she finds out things in the city are even worse than she knew. Not only are the Allegiant now armed, but Evilyn, being evil, now has the death serum, because that’s also evil.

As we know, no one is capable of resisting death serum, not even the Divergent.

Bad writing is bad.

Anyway, so, they’re going to mindwipe. And for some reason they’ll do all four experiments at once, because.

and the last one in Chicago was done a few generations before yours.” He gives me an odd smile. “Why did you think there was so much physical devastation in the factionless sector? There was an uprising, and we had to quell it as cleanly as possible.”

So I guess that lets the author fix the retcon-induced plot hole of the first book being written like it’s about three generations and the current book saying it’s that larger number I can’t remember. But it doesn’t make sense – if they were resetting things, why not get rid of the factionless, which were always the destabilizing factor and which have most of their precious “pure” genes in the first place?

Also, apparently no one bothered fixing the factionless sector in generations either, so while Tris is all OMG I THOUGHT THAT WAS JUST WHAT HAPPENED WITHOUT THE COMMUNITY OF FACTIONS!!! it’s not like the buildings the factions are in never wore down, so the bigger issue is their inability to fix any of that stuff.

I feel sick with anger. That they want to stop a revolution, not to save lives, but to save their precious experiment, would be enough.

It’s really weird you think those things are distinct, also, pretty obviously the experiments failing will mean horrible things for those inside the city as they have to leave it for the craphole outside world.

This is the real gap. If the outside world was functional in general and just oppressing those without pure genes, then this would obviously be another facet of that oppression. But the slums make it clear that society at large is barely holding on, otherwise you couldn’t have vast areas it has no control over at all, and the fact multiple people have the backstory of running to the slums because life in the regular cities sucks so much makes it sound like it’s not meaningfully better there – if Tris had been there, and we’d seen the cities actually run fine and the misery is just because the pure treat the rest horribly, then it’d work (and maybe the slums are hellholes just because they want the people there to die off without causing more problems but can’t quite justify death camps yet) but that’s not at all what we’re presented with.

So, what we actually get are the experimental cities seemingly having a significantly higher quality of life than the regular cities, and possibly even higher than the lab itself – again, terrible lack of detail here. This, in turn, makes it sound like the evil pure are actually sacrificing a lot trying to make life better for the totally-not-broken-but-somehow-keep-blowing-up-their-own-cities folk.

The idea that they just want to keep the experiment going because it’s their baby would also be stronger if we had the sense there were multiple attempts at solving this problem, and theirs was actually a failure being kept going solely because they kept fighting for it. Then, it’d seem like the memory wipes were assholes refusing to accept their hypothesis had been disproved over and over, rather than currently, when it seems like they’re trying to prevent the government from pulling out funding for the one thing that’s halfway worked and managed to give people decent lives.

And for the record, you could still do this story with the latter version – just because this is the only thing that’s halfway worked doesn’t mean it’s the right answer, and it could be they’re so caught up in that they refuse to consider other options.

It seems to me like the serums are a mistake. They didn’t realize how well the factions would work and assumed each one would need a way to enforce their rules, because they can’t stop thinking of the GMO people as things to be controlled and punished, but what actually happened is the factions got a sort of addiction to taking the easy way out when they could’ve functioned fine on their own.

Amity and Candor shouldn’t have needed to rely on serums for routine functioning. And maybe Dauntless wouldn’t have gone psycho if they hadn’t had the fear serum to expose people to absurdly over the top horrors and generally blur the real/imaginary line. While I think there’s something pretty useful about something that prevents/erases PTSD, not having a magical out for PTSD would’ve meant they couldn’t abuse their trainees with impunity. Abnegation don’t seem to have used their memory erasing serum, and they seem functional, just kind of assholes. Not sure how Erudite having death serum has anything to do with that faction, but it sure isn’t helping now and sure wasn’t good they had it up their sleeves when they went genocidal last week and I just generally can’t see how giving them an easy way to wipe out anyone could ever be helpful for stability.

Similarly, the scientists outside are still relying on those serums to prop up the experiment instead of trying to fix things inside it. Instead of doing anything about the fact one faction had started their own version of purity policing, they used memory wiping to try to smuggle their precious genetic material out and leave that system intact. Instead of doing anything to fix the factionless, they apparently decided it takes a few generations to build into a rebellion and they’ll just keep mindwiping everyone when that comes up.

And why? Because they can’t believe the GMO people ever could run themselves. The fact this society can run itself for several generations before the abused underclass desperately tries to fight back is already way more than they’d have ever thought the GMO could do, and it’s probably a weird fluke that’ll fall apart if anything’s changed. So they make no attempt to improve the system, however obvious it should be that some elements don’t work, because they can’t believe anything could ever be better for the GMO people. That’s also why the city is only being used to try to produce fresh fixed people, not as a model for how the GMO people could live safely.

Tris, who’s lived there and already drawn comparisons between the good/bad sides of Dauntless, and supposedly is smart in addition to being brave and selfless, is in the perfect position to see that things could be better, could be fixed, if only they’d be willing to deal with the people in the city as people and not animals to be tricked with various forms of manipulation and outright lies.

But that’s not what the book cares about. Instead, it just has Tris remind us mindwiping is bad.

But why do they believe they have the right to rip people’s memories, their identities, out of their heads, just because it’s convenient for them?

While I really am sympathetic to the idea that’s a lot like death, there’s also the issue that it’s an attempt to prevent actual death. The book keeps telling us this is all a scientist dick-measuring contest, but they’re responding to an actual problem. If the death serum is easily aerosoled, and it sure sounds like it given I’m not sure how else they expect it to make such an awesome offensive weapon, then there’s a risk the factionless could wipe out everyone in the city. The Erudite they have seem largely to be the people who flunked as kids, so I’m not sure they have anyone who knows how to handle the stuff, and even the regular Erudite don’t seem to have used it regularly. They certainly have no experience using it as a weapon because they made no attempt at that even for their last stand. Given there’s been no talk of how much of it is required to kill you, it sounds like even a very small amount is deadly, and given the talk about how very horrible the death would be, I’d expect even a non-fatal dose to leave major damage. People still breathing but braindead, people with fully functioning brains but barely able to breath, massive nerve damage causing constant pain, who knows?

Tris keeps insisting they’re not doing this for the right reasons, but like so much else in the book, we have no idea what the stakes actually are. She then informs us that they just care about genes. The book continues to fail to reconcile the fact plenty of “pure” individuals are within the city because their plan was to only have those guys leave when their numbers had built up somehow. This isn’t GMO people vs original model, it’s experimental subjects vs scientists, they’re erasing everybody in the city and they’re not even saying stuff about how it’s a shame the divergent didn’t all leave that’d indicate they see any distinction between the two groups.

I remember what he said to me in his office. If we are going to win this fight against genetic damage, we will need to make sacrifices. You understand that, don’t you? I should have known, then, that he would gladly trade thousands of GD memories—lives—for control of the experiments. That he would trade them without even thinking of alternatives—without feeling like he needed to bother to save them.
They’re damaged, after all.

What the book is going for is a really good idea, but that makes it all the more disappointing it never bothers presenting it properly. Tris spent a bunch of chapters refusing to care about the different treatment the GMO people got, then she was convinced David was evil because it’s his fault her mom’s dead, now everything he does is evil and oppressing the GMO people who she now cares about.

2 Comments

  1. Betty Cross says:
    This was the point in the book where I was struggling to continue. The GMO people plot line made my brain itch so bad it was hard to keep reading.

    However, I will give Roth a bit of slack for Tris’ sudden sympathy for the poor people of the Fringe. No, she never thought that way in the first book, but I see this as a sign of maturity. OTOH, she doesn’t think, “I’ve been very fortunate.” This sentence would have made the point much clearer.

    1. Farla says:
      No, she never thought that way in the first book, but I see this as a sign of maturity.

      The thing is, she spent her life surrounded by factionless, and then her most recent interaction was their betrayal of her faction to grab total power. She’s not a sheltered kid who just suddenly realized suffering exists – she’s had her nose rubbed in it her whole life, followed by an experience that should make her associate poverty with treachery rather than pity.

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