Last time on Dauntless, stage one initiation complete! Two characters we barely knew were lost. Better than the Hunger Games in that they had names and were mentioned a bit, worse than Battle Royale in that they didn’t have much else. Also Tris is still divergent except for the part where she’s totally Dauntless.
Speaking of, time to move on to stage two. The groups are now mixed and Lynn, second rank Dauntless-born, wants to know who’s the first ranked transfer, because apparently they know none of the eye stabby details.
Her question is met with silence at first, and then Peter clears his throat.
“Me,” he says.
Tris, you’ll recall, spend the previous two chapters insisting that mentioning Peter did it would be futile or possibly discouraged. She does not take the chance here to throw in a mention that Peter is not really the first rank. The girl goes on to say that she bets she could beat any of them, and Tris again misses a prime opportunity to say that she bets Lynn could hand Peter his ass in a regular fight but he’s first rank at stabbing people at night so watch out if you’re better than him haha it’s not really a joke he’ll do that.
I mean, her assumption is that the people in charge don’t care, so one thing to try would be to mention is widely and see if the rank and file Dauntless are less okay with it, especially because she seemed sure that they would. And if they are fine with it, and nighttime stabs are how the Dauntless-born handle things, you’ll have flagged Peter as first on the stabby block! Really, the only problem is the possibility Peter will stab her for saying this, and honestly if she and her friends aren’t planning to sleep in shifts or something now regardless they’re idiots, he’ll keep doing the behavior he’s getting rewarded for.
But this entire thing doesn’t even occur to her.
I almost laugh. If I was still Abnegation, her comment would be rude and out of place, but among the Dauntless, challenges like that seem common.
It’s like Tris has no words for things other than rude. It’s rude to say it’s crazy not to have railings, it’s rude to say you’re a better fighter. Abnegation isn’t even about humility or getting along, so I don’t know where she’s getting this. Lynn’s comments are certainly something she wouldn’t see in Abnegation, but that’s because they presumably hate pride and self-worth, so actual arrogance is unthinkable.
Peter is pissed they don’t respect him.
I am sure. You know how many years we’ve spent preparing for this?”
For one thing, you’re sixteen, so yes, we do know. For another, bigger point, you had only one more person than they did and still had two wash out, so this is not a good time for bragging.
“So you’re first,” Will says to Uriah.
Uriah shrugs. “Yeah. And?”
“And you don’t think it’s a little unfair that you’ve spent your entire life getting ready for this, and we’re expected to learn it all in a few weeks?” Will says, his eyes narrowing.
Again, both groups had two failures. Two Dauntless-born were considered worse than the guy who won a single fight and then flopped down in defeat for every other conflict, and also couldn’t throw a knife and also loudly confessed to being a coward. So clearly, they’re either not ranking you by competence at all or they’re giving you an enormous handicap that if anything favors you guys.
But instead the book proceeds to explain that stage one is indeed supposedly about skill and yet stage two has no bearing on anything they’re taught, because. This reminds me a little of how in Harry Potter there’s similar insistence that the wizarding kids and muggleborn are all starting from the same point, but at least Harry Potter throws in a bunch of actual checks on this, like kids not having wands before that point and not being able to do magic outside Hogwarts afterward. When Harry Potter is what comes to mind for doing a better job of worldbuilding, you are officially a failure.
They’re called into a room one by one and eventually it’s Tris’ turn for a thing like the aptitude test but not.
“Ever hear the phrase ‘face your fears’?” he says. “We’re taking that literally. The simulation will teach you to control your emotions in the midst of a frightening situation.”
If they could do this, the whole of the first section should’ve been a simulation. That’d explain the Dauntless’ videogame behavior of rushing blindly at everything and learning from experience. It’s also explain why the injuries they get keep disappearing – seriously, Christina gets her face torn apart, and two days later Tris is discussing how she can’t even see bruises, and no one’s showing any signs of all the brain damage they should be getting – and why the only fallout of Edward getting his eye stabbed out is that Edward quit and all the other kids are traumatized by the experience.
It’d also work for an explanation of why the Dauntless appear to get anything they want, because in a videogame the only point of money is to make people space out their purchases to enjoy them properly. And if we assume training time is simulation but the time outside is real, that’s why the only sign of safety considerations was when Tris left for the cable joyride.
She asks if he does aptitude tests too.
“No,” he replies. “I avoid Stiffs as much as possible.”
I don’t know why someone would avoid the Abnegation. The Dauntless or the Candor, maybe, because bravery and honesty make people do strange things, but the Abnegation?
Except for the past chapters you’ve repeatedly said people avoid you and you appear to be the most hated faction. All the transfers and Dauntless kids refer to you by your current faction, using a slur which no other faction has, and are constantly suggesting you’ll fail or actively hoping it happens.
I’m starting to wonder how many drafts this story was.
He doesn’t want to explain.
“Why do you say vague things if you don’t want to be asked about them?”
This is bizarre, and I can only assume that Tris, having been raised without the ability to ask questions, has no idea how normal conversations flow. Vagueness tends to mean avoiding the subject.
The simulation this time is done by injecting the serum and there’s a wireless transmitter to send it to the computer.
“We use a more advanced version of the simulation here,” he says which I think means that the regular version is safe but this is more effective when it doesn’t accidentally wipe your brain.
“The serum will go into effect in sixty seconds. This simulation is different from the aptitude test,” he says. “In addition to containing the transmitter, the serum stimulates the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in processing negative emotions —like fear—and then induces a hallucination. The brain’s electrical activity is then transmitted to our computer, which then translates your hallucination into a simulated image that I can see and monitor. I will then forward the recording to Dauntless administrators. You stay in the hallucination until you calm down—that is, lower your heart rate and control your breathing.”
Oh. So it isn’t a simulation at all and bears no resemblance to the aptitude test beyond that both take place in her head.
He plants his hands on either side of my head and leans over me. “Be brave, Tris,” he whispers. “The first time is always the hardest.”
Bad! You’re only tolerable as a love interest because you seem to be avoiding doing love interest stuff do to your teacher role. Don’t go down this path, it’ll end in creepiness.
Something lands on my shoulder. I feel its weight and the prick of talons and fling my arm forward to shake it off, my hand batting at it. I feel something smooth and fragile. A feather. I bite my lip and look to the side. A black bird the size of my forearm turns its head and focuses one beady eye on me.
I grit my teeth and hit the crow again with my hand. It digs in its talons and doesn’t move. I cry out, more frustrated than pained, and hit the crow with both hands
Anyway then the crows tear her apart but I find it interesting that the scenario is not initially threatening. The crow lands on her. It doesn’t seem to even be hurting her until she tries to push it off. She’s the one who opens with violence.
I wonder if her “divergence” is really just an artifact of her failure to make a choice at the start? If she had the knife, is this what she’d have done?
But one of the things I liked about her back then was her first thought was that the cheese would have been useful facing the dog. So maybe this is a sign that Dauntless is doing a good job of molding someone who didn’t start off that way to fit perfectly into their box. Current Tris would certainly choose both the knife and the killing.
Anyway, the scene is a good nightmarish one. The crows don’t make sense but that actually works better – it’s a great combination of visceral and surreal.
She finally gives in as they tear her apart and this is what lets her out finally.
A hand touches my shoulder, and I fling a fist out, hitting something solid but soft. “Don’t touch me!” I sob.
“It’s over,” Four says. The hand shifts awkwardly over my hair, and I remember my father stroking my hair when he kissed me goodnight, my mother touching my hair when she trimmed it with the scissors.
He proceeds to offer to take her back and so on, and she just gets more upset at the idea of showing weakness. There’s no mention of if he did this for everyone, so I’m going to assume he did. We know no one came back out, and it means his attempts at comforting her are positive teacher things and not creepy future boyfriend things.
Before they reach the dorms Tris throws off her shellshock and says that this is fucked up and insane.
I want to go home,” I say weakly.
But home is not an option anymore. My choices are here or the factionless slums.
Was home an option?
Tris talks of being factionless upon failure from the beginning, but her friend who went to Amity thinks she can quit. And Amity had one kid attempt Dauntless and fail by that point. I think they took him back and that’s why her friend expects it to happen. She isn’t familiar with it personally, but we know Abnegation’s kids rarely leave, so it may just not have come up recently.
Presumably this is just talking about how home hasn’t been an option since the choosing ceremony, but it seems likely that the longer she stays Dauntless, and the more she absorbs their culture, like with the tattoos, the more likely she’ll be refused asylum in Abnegation and have to live factionless. I also can’t imagine another faction making an exception for her – Amity would likely refuse her as far too aggressive and Erudite hates her birth faction regardless. Candor I suspect wouldn’t want washouts in general, since that doesn’t seem to fit the black and white view they have.
Four gives some bullshit about how it’s to teach her to think clearly when she’s afraid, because god knows deliberately exposing people to personalized trauma is great for that. Then he says that she’s super great because she escaped the simulation way faster than anybody else. She did it by giving up, which I’m not sure is a good sign. I don’t know, maybe it’s because she’s adaptable (divergent?) and when her current faction’s methods of violence didn’t work, she was able to more quickly transition back to her previous faction’s give up and take it system, while the other kids might have kept struggling along fighting as the previous stage trained them to do.
She asks him about his first test.
“It wasn’t a ‘what’ so much as a ‘who.’” He shrugs. “It’s not important.”
“And are you over that fear now?”
“Not yet.” We reach the door to the dormitory, and he leans against the wall, sliding his hands into his pockets. “I may never be.”
“So they don’t go away?”
“Sometimes they do. And sometimes new fears replace them.” His thumbs hook around his belt loops. “But becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it, that’s the point.”
…so we do seem to be going to Four being Marcus’ son and the guy really is evil. But this doesn’t fit well. If he’s able to control and be free from his fear, he should be able to participate in the current argument regarding if Marcus is evil.
So maybe Marcus’ son was evil and Four knew him and was so horribly traumatized by the guy’s viciousness in stage one that by stage two that was his hallucination, and then later the kid died and that’s why no one just interviews him about if what the Erudite are saying is true.
I nod. I used to think the Dauntless were fearless. That is how they seemed, anyway. But maybe what I saw as fearless was actually fear under control.
The book keeps writing her having this revelation and keeps forgetting to show us the seeming she’s building off. The very first conversation she had with a Dauntless was about dealing with fear, and every time she’s talked to Four it’s been about working through fear.
He then says that the fears in the simulation aren’t literal, but unfortunately Tris’ brain suddenly decides it’s time to pay attention to how super hot he is and how very very close he is to her, so she’s not really paying attention.
“Well, are you really afraid of crows?” he says, half smiling at me. The expression warms his eyes enough that I forget he’s my instructor. He’s just a boy, talking casually, walking me to my door. “When you see one, do you run away screaming?”
“No. I guess not.” I think about stepping closer to him, not for any practical reason, but just because I want to see what it would be like to stand that close to him; just because I want to.
Which means we don’t get any further insight on the matter. And that annoys me. Unless the simulation works really weirdly, you should not be getting anything complex here. The reason you get weird junk in dreams is because they’re the weird junk filtering period of brain functioning. If something doesn’t have an obvious meaning it probably doesn’t have one at all.
There are a dozen things it could be, but I’m not sure which one is right, or if there’s even one right one.
Yes you are. It’s your brain. Whatever associations you have for a swarm of devouring crows, that’s what it was. (I won’t try speculating because so much depends on if we’re going with actual common human associations or fictional conventions.) That it’s any animal might have to do with the dog conversation, though – you didn’t have to kill the dog and everyone else did.
Come to think of it – crows survived whatever thing happened? We’ve seen no sign of any wildlife.
Tris admits she didn’t realize initiation would suck so much.
“It wasn’t always like this, I’m told,” he says
Huh, so he isn’t from the pro-teamwork period? But he speaks nostalgically of it.
“The person who controls training sets the standard of Dauntless behavior. Six years ago Max and the other leaders changed the training methods to make them more competitive and more brutal, said it was supposed to test people’s strength. And that changed the priorities of Dauntless as a whole.
Okay but why? What happened? There’s been no sign the Dauntless particularly respect their leaders, so I can’t imagine it’s very easy to do top down change. That means either the whole of Dauntless was moving in this direction or some external change happened that made it necessary for the leaders to alter things drastically AND shook up the current system enough for there to be support among the average people.
My money is still on the factionless thing was the breaking point. Tris says their government runs on inertia because changing anything might cause war. Tris says her dad kicked the Dauntless out of what appears to have been their primary job. A few years later, Tris joins the Dauntless and finds a culture of purposeless berserkers who don’t even want new members.
So naturally Four was still the best but Eric was second therefore Four was first choice for a leader and Eric also second and Four didn’t take leadership despite it being obvious he has strong opinions about the direction Dauntless is going for absolutely no reason I guess.
When she gets to the dorm, apparently everyone else has bounced back fine from their own trauma because Peter is reading the newspaper to them.
“The mass exodus of the children of Abnegation leaders cannot be ignored or attributed to coincidence,” he reads. “The recent transfer of Beatrice and Caleb Prior, the children of Andrew Prior, calls into question the soundness of Abnegation’s values and teachings.”
So still no word on if the four kids we meet are the whole of them and they lost at least seventy-five percent of that years’ kids or if it’s solely the kids of the important guys who are being counted here and who knows how many other kids stayed.
“Why else would the children of such an important man decide that the lifestyle he has set out for them is not an admirable one?” Peter continues. “Molly Atwood, a fellow Dauntless transfer, suggests a disturbed and abusive upbringing might be to blame. ‘I heard her talking in her sleep once,’ Molly says. ‘She was telling her father to stop doing something. I don’t know what it was, but it gave her nightmares.’”
Tris is mad, everyone else is either pitying or glorying in gossip and suffering, Tris decides the newspaper is all that matters and must be destroyed.
“But I’m not done reading,” he replies, laughter in his voice. His eyes scan the paper again. “However, perhaps the answer lies not in a morally bereft man, but in the corrupted ideals of an entire faction. Perhaps the answer is that we have entrusted our city to a group of proselytizing tyrants who do not know how to lead us out of poverty and into prosperity.”
What are very valid points. For example, while strict veganism is rarely the best use of resources, currently three factions appear to be eating a meat-heavy diet and there’s no reason to think Erudites are any different. At best, Amity might avoid eating animals, and even they’re probably still consuming stuff like eggs (certainly cheese). And there’s no sign the plants are being chosen based on what’s most productive either – Tris talked of bananas, meaning Chicago is tropical or they’re using greenhouses extensively. There’s a reason people describe the American diet as unsustainable. It doesn’t seem like there’s any cost considerations to having dogs, either.
Abnegation may be aware of the problem given Erudite complains about them meddling with the flow of fresh food, and unable to make any actual change given Erudite throws a shitfit about just not having fresh everything they want. They clearly aren’t able to get the supplies/money from the other factions for public works projects and if we’re to believe they’re sincerely trying to help the factionless, that shows that they’re completely incapable of helping anyone and the other factions’ good lives are based on their leaders’ power to protect them, not Abnegation.
(And this is assuming Abnegation has any incentive to avoid poverty when they should think that’s the best way to lead people to their chosen virtue.)
I storm up to him and try to snatch the paper from his hands, but he holds it up, high above my head so I can’t reach it unless I jump, and I won’t jump. Instead, I lift my heel and stomp as hard as I can where the bones in his foot connect to his toes.
This interests me. We haven’t gotten any mileage out of the fact Peter isn’t a thug going by Christina’s description, but someone who takes advantage of the rules. He doesn’t get into fights, he starts fights then blames the other kid to get them in trouble. Here, he’s acting as if there are rules protecting him – that all he has to do is hold this over his head and she can’t do anything. But the Dauntless aren’t fans of rules. In fact, we have yet to see anything that can’t be challenged.
But is seems he’s just here to be evil, because there’s no reaction to her demonstrating that he can’t abuse rules of polite conduct in a faction that trains the kids to assault each other and that, in fact, he may have made a terrible misjudgment coming here. Instead, Tris lunges for Molly and Will drags her off.
I figured I’d stop you from starting a brawl in the dormitory.
His reason for thinking that’s necessary goes unexplained. Tris is snarling that they’re Candor trash and that they’re insulting her family and faction, and he points out that “It’s your old faction but does not go on to say that the real threat there is that if she gets upset Eric might punish her because faction over blood – this would get back to Peter trying to use the rules to bully. Instead there’s nothing you can do about what they say, so you might as well just ignore it.” but there are in fact two things she can do.
The first is to state it’s a lie publicly. If Erudite publishes the newspapers this may be impossible, but if they do so then they don’t need to bother getting lines from Molly, they can just make up anything they feel like, and that means the newspapers are therefore useless for information and just taking up space – Marcus’ son, corruption, etc, there’s no reason to bother with anything being true. Continuing the Harry Potter comparisons, this is why the stupid tabloid journalist plot was stupid – if she can make anything she likes up, and she sure did, she doesn’t need Draco to feed her insulting tidbits about Harry. Tabloids in our world do that because it lends them credibility, but when there is no other voice and no oversight, what you say goes.
The second is beat the shit out of Molly and Peter. This may not be possible, but if she hurts people who say stuff she doesn’t like, they’ll probably stop doing it. They might move on to stabbing her when she sleeps, but that’s not the point. There is a behavior she wants to discourage and a manner she can discourage it, so there is definitely something she can do about it.
Tris suddenly starts caring about politics: “Your stupid ex-faction isn’t just insulting Abnegation anymore. They’re calling for an overthrow of the entire government.” to which Will says no, it’s just talk, and it’s only that they resent Abnegation for refusing to listen to them.” and then Tris says “They don’t want people to listen, they want people to agree,” and this whole conversation is taking place without facts! How does she know they’re trying to force agreement? Abnegation does seem to be doing a shitty, shitty job of running the place, and maybe the Erudite reporter was legitimately trying to find out the reason why you left. Christina decided to threaten violence, you weren’t there at all, Molly presumably lied for the lulz, that doesn’t make the reporter the bad guy.
Admittedly, it’s odd that they wouldn’t be able to get info from your brother when he’s a member of their faction, but for all we know he said that yes, Abnegation is a disaster.
She starts bitching about them and that makes Will defensive, so she backs off.
I can’t imagine anyone emerging from the Erudite unscathed, though Will seems all right.
There is still no sign Erudite as a group is doing anything wrong. All we have on them at the moment is that they’re not good on journalistic integrity and in fairness, their faction is supposed to be about investigation and innovation, not fact-checking. They may rely on each other to challenge claims made, which would lead to a lot of stuff looking like statements of ironclad fact to outsiders. The city seems in worse shape than the individual faction’s domains, so Erudite’s complains Abnegation is incompetent or embezzling isn’t coming out of nowhere and the government doesn’t seem to have any interest in transparency, so of course they’re going to be speculating. For all we know they’re just trying to say inflammatory stuff in the hopes of forcing Abnegation to respond and actually explain themselves.
I can’t go back into the dormitory. Even if Will let me, I am outnumbered there.
If only you’d pointed out Peter was the stabber back when you had that great opportunity earlier. Then maybe the new Dauntless-born kids wouldn’t all be glad to be Peter’s new friends.
She and her friends head off for tattoos and new clothes.
“I can’t believe you got another tattoo,” he says, shaking his head.
“Why?” I say. “Because I’m a Stiff?”
“No. Because you’re…sensible.”
Will points out that we never did get an answer to what do tattoos and nose rings have to do with courage. Tris has just decided to embrace it without explanation, and that lack of explanation continues.
I see Four standing by the chasm, a group of people around him. He laughs so hard he has to grab the railing for balance. Judging by the bottle in his hand and the brightness of his face, he’s intoxicated, or on his way there. I had begun to think of Four as rigid, like a soldier, and forgot that he’s also eighteen.
Huh, either that’s the first mention of his age or I wasn’t paying attention. So we can nail down that he’s been there four years, and he said it was six years ago Dauntless changed. If we ignore the way he talked like it was all at once, we can assume he came in mid-transition, enough to experience both sides of it, and if we assume that the idea of only letting in a limited number came later, it’s still reasonable for him to have helped another initiate with her fighting and played by teamwork rules in general.
“Uh-oh,” says Will. “Instructor alert.”
“At least it’s not Eric,” I say. “He’d probably make us play chicken or something.”
“Sure, but Four is scary. Remember when he put the gun up to Peter’s head? I think Peter wet himself.”
To show how only she deserves love interest, only Tris likes seeing him, even though by now you’d think the kids would have latched onto the comparatively sane instructor. Eric has been the source of everything bad that’s happened to them, while Four has just been threatening when occasionally provoked. The only way this works is if the kids have taken his silence at Eric’s behavior for approval, but he’s been saying stuff like that they can give up in a fight and how teamwork used to be a priority.
Plus presumably he walked all the kids back to the dorm. Will still seeing him as terrifying requires him to have only given advice and reassurance to Tris, which would be bad – and not even in character, since we’re told Four helped his fellow initiates and there’s no way all the other kids handled the test better than Tris.
Four is drunk and being drunk is wrong, kids, so Tris is disturbed to find him out of sorts.
“Didn’t know you had a tattoo,” he says, looking at my collarbone.
He sips the bottle. His breath smells thick and sharp. Like the factionless man’s breath.
“Right. The crows,” he says.
See, I was right not to bother analyzing it if apparently it was supposed to stand in for her family.
He adds, “I’d ask you to hang out with us, but you’re not supposed to see me this way.”
I am tempted to ask him why he wants me to hang out with him, but I suspect the answer has something to do with the bottle in his hand.
This is a cute bit. It helps that it’s pretty pathetic – he has to get stupidly drunk to even say he wants to hang out with her, and the main barrier I have with their relationship at the moment is the power imbalance of teacher/student. He may well be lonely – he’s admired but we haven’t seen anyone he’s close to, and someone with a better social circle might not have wanted to take on the job of teaching newbies.
Then Al picks her up and she waves goodbye.
But he wonders what they were talking about, and she’s uncomfortable because it’s because Al still has a crush on her. She makes excuses about it just being funny to see the teacher drunk.
“Right,” says Will. “Couldn’t possibly be because—”
I elbow Will hard in the ribs before he can finish his sentence. He was close enough to hear what Four said to me about looking good. I don’t need him telling everyone about it, especially not Al. I don’t want to make him feel worse.
I feel Tris is navigating this as well as she can – she isn’t going to pretend to be in love when she isn’t, but she’s doing her best not to hurt him further. If Four was an option, she might have to deal with this, but right now he isn’t, so she can pretend she’s just not interested in anyone and spare Al’s feelings.
And she thinks about how it was peaceful and pleasant back with her family, but this is fun and she likes it more because it’s all wild and exciting. Which…isn’t exactly new. We really seem to be treading water.