Divergent Ch20-21

Last time, Tris got eaten by birds who I guess symbolized her family.

Today, Tris goes in for a new nightmare.
This one at least seems less symbolic – she imagines being in front of everyone in a glass tank that fills with water. While she’s drowning she manages to smash it open.

“What?” I ask.
“How did you do that?”
“Do what?”
“Crack the glass.”
“I don’t know.”

And he says it’s because she’s divergent.

“I suspected it last time, but this time it’s obvious. You manipulated the simulation; you’re Divergent.

So it’s two disconnected things – having multiple traits just happens to also give you 1337 hacking skillz. Well, this is bullshit.

And it’s not even clear why they care so much. Okay, so she may have given fucked up test results, but there never seemed to be much point to the test and then we found out that the factions do their own tests that actually matter. All being divergent does then is increase the risk you’ll pick a faction that you can’t past the test for, which is only a problem for the divergent kid.

Sure, the Dauntless apparently have their own test that uses it a little, but all they have to do is penalize her for getting out by divergent methods and it’s back to being her problem.

He tells her he’ll cover it up but she needs to find a way to stop being so obvious unless you want to wind up dead at the bottom of the chasm. Still no reason why anyone cares. He doesn’t explain, so she heads off to the tattoo artist, who says that divergence = lucid dreamer, which suggests this book’s focus on simulations would be more interesting if we had any other protagonist.

“Someone who, because you are also Dauntless…tends to die.”

I’d assume this is literally just because being Dauntless makes you more likely to die.

But no, apparently all Dauntless leaders are evil and will murder her if they find out.

She doesn’t look crazy. She sounds steady, if a little urgent, and I’ve never suspected her of being unbalanced, but she must be. There hasn’t been a murder in our city as long as I’ve been alive.

This is truly the chapter of crashing and burning, isn’t it?

So we have the factionless with nothing to live for and who she fears, but they never kill anyone. We have the faction of violent armed psychos, and they never kill anyone. She just saw someone get stabbed through the eye and took it in stride, as if that’s a perfectly understandable event. She’s been terrified of something horrible happening if they find out about her. The simulation involved a murderer. But murder is unthinkable. I guess this is one of those places with a high death rate due to “accidents”.

She also says faction leaders are extra unable to do it, because she still can’t tell Eric is jacking off while he watches them suffer, and finally claims the point of the faction system was to stop murders (and presumably other crime, I guess?) despite the fact nothing about the faction system has anything to do with that.

Look, I can accept the idea it stops war. It’d be a very unstable solution, but if you have people on the brink of armed warfare over which trait is best/worst, a truce of everyone trying out their way makes sense enough to work. Adding that also it stopped everyone from committing murder, though? That’s just stupid.

Tris’ denial makes the tattoo artist angry, though really it’s her own damn fault for explaining nothing, and she says that she and her brother transferred in from Erudite (every single person has a same-age sibling apparently) but her brother was divergent and “committed suicide” in the giant death chasm on the final day of the simulation period. I’m guessing a lot of Dauntless “commit suicide” there.

“In the second stage of training, Georgie got really good, really fast. He said the simulations weren’t even scary to him…they were like a game. So the instructors took a special interest in him. Piled into the room when he went under, instead of just letting the instructor report his results. Whispered about him all the time. The last day of simulations, one of the Dauntless leaders came in to see it himself. And the next day, Georgie was gone.”

I guess this could be a different sort of struggle. It all seems pointless and forced specialness for Tris, but in itself, the idea that you have to master fear enough to not use the way out you know you have is an interesting twist.

Incidentally, Tris does not consider she and the tattoo artist’s brother weren’t actually good at the simulations in the first place any more than you’re good at a game if you play it with god mode on. Obviously killing them is insane, but Dauntless would be well in their rights to flunk them and kick them into factionless slumtown.

The woman says that only two people know about divergent kids, the ones who murder them or those who’ve experienced it first/secondhand, which annoys me because it means she’s only alive by staggering coincidence.

I’ve been assuming that murdering divergent kids has started to get into the rumormill, enough that the average person seeing it would want to cover it up. Here, we don’t even get an excuse like “After my brother, I made sure to always volunteer for the tests in the hope of saving another kid.” Maybe we’re meant to infer that in the lack of other explanation.

(Also, given she only knows about divergence and what happens to them by inference, she should have no way of knowing who else knows. She knows at least two groups know about them, not only two groups do.)

“I don’t understand,” I say slowly, “why the Dauntless leaders care that I can manipulate the simulation.”
“If I had it figured out, I would have told you by now.” She presses her lips together. “The only thing I’ve come up with is that changing the simulation isn’t what they care about; it’s just a symptom of something else. Something they do care about.”

Well, since you said it with no reason for why that would be, I guess that’s true. They’re fine with the fact divergent kids don’t fit neatly into their boxes, the fact the kids screw up test results that supposedly matter isn’t the problem, it’s some third special thing about divergent kids. Or fourth or fifth or sixth, since at this rate we have room for another couple revelations about divergent kids.

“Think about this,” she says. “These people taught you how to use a gun. They taught you how to fight. You think they’re above hurting you? Above killing you?”

Stop pointing out what a plot hole it is that Tris finds murder inconceivable, book.

The next chapter jumps ahead four days.

Since then, Erudite has released two articles about Abnegation. The first article accuses Abnegation of withholding luxuries like cars and fresh fruit from the other factions in order to force their belief in self-denial on everyone else.

That is a very reasonable concern that would make complete sense given Abnegation’s values. Especially when they claim they’re hoarding the food to give to the factionless despite the fact that should just make the factionless miserable if they really believe having stuff is the root of suffering. Tris may counter that her family does not have a car, but their neighbor does, so that just suggests her family was living to Abnegation values but other members aren’t.

My own theory that the shortages come from Abnegation trying to manage their resources may give them nobler motives, but still mean they’re doing a bad job of governing – they’re trying to keep people unaware of just how dire the situation is out of the belief only Abnegation can be trusted with information and decisions because everyone else is unworthy.

The second article discusses the failings of choosing government officials based on their faction, asking why only people who define themselves as selfless should be in government. It promotes a return to the democratically elected political systems of the past.

…oh no?

It makes a lot of sense, which makes me suspect it is a call for revolution wrapped in the clothing of rationality.

Yes, how unreasonable it is for people to have reasons for things. Tris, the point at which revolution is rational is the point your government is an utter failure, and since your government is your faction they evidently deserve every bit of bile aimed at them. They’ve had ninety years to prove selfless people would govern best, and currently there are OPEN SEWERS in the place that houses people in charge of transportation. The city is crumbling around you while an entire faction’s worth of people stand around opening and shutting a gate. There have been more incompetent governments in human history, but that’s not exactly a high standard.Statistically, things will probably not get worse if you let other people try out running the place.

She contemplates the net that she jumped off into back at the beginning of her Dauntless career. She says her friends tried to cheer her up both times the mean articles were released, but now she wants to think about how she got here.

I wanted to be like the Dauntless I saw at school. I wanted to be loud and daring and free like them. But they were not members yet; they were just playing at being Dauntless.

If only this line of reasoning had been used to say that the stupid shit they did was dumb teenagerness and not actual Dauntless party line.

In the past four days, I faced four fears. In one I was tied to a stake and Peter set a fire beneath my feet. In another I was drowning again, this time in the middle of an ocean as the water raged around me. In the third, I watched as my family slowly bled to death. And in the fourth, I was held at gunpoint and forced to shoot them.

Eh. The stake one is really lame – she hates Peter, fire scary, whatever. And the drowning thing – it’s the worst mix of cliche and just not a very good fear. Drowning is really simple. You’re trying to breathe and can’t. I mean, yeah, it’s scary because dying’s scary and choking’s painful, but it’s a kind of frustrating scary. You know what’s terrifying?

Being attacked underwater. Out of your element, unable to even see it coming until it’s almost upon you, moving at a snail’s crawl as you try to flee, the horror at your back creeping closer and closer and you don’t even know when the jaws will snap shut around you. At least the first drowning had the horror of no one reacting to your death in addition to the water.

Then the other two are her family dying. I’m not sure how those even worked given she’s a lucid dreamer.

I was wrong; I didn’t jump off the roof because I wanted to be like the Dauntless. I jumped off because I already was like them, and I wanted to show myself to them.

It’s been obvious for quite a while now that you’re Dauntless oriented, so it doesn’t seem like there’s any point to saying it. We are treading so much water.

Then Four comes to chat with her about the family murdering.

“In the simulation is the only time I get to see them,” I say. Even though he says I don’t, I feel like I have to explain why this fear is so difficult for me to face.

This shouldn’t be a big deal, though. Half of Dauntless appears to come from outsiders, and you guys have screwy rules about abandoning your families. Four says he doesn’t miss his family, which she spends an instant of actual curiosity on before the author remembers the book’s titled Divergent so it turns into Are you like me? I ask him silently. Are you Divergent?

She then moons over him, them lampshades how weird it is she’s doing that when everyone else is a ball of trauma as she returns to the dorms. Then she wonders if she’s stronger because of being divergent. Then it turns out new rankings are up.

Christina and Will are seventh and ninth, respectively. Peter is second, but when I look at the time listed by his name, I realize that the margin between us is conspicuously wide. Peter’s average simulation time is eight minutes. Mine is two minutes, forty-five seconds.

She has taken the crown of most specialest.

While she initially thinks just that fuck, now Peter’s going to stab her too, Al is listed last and her next impulse is to want to confess that she’s not really doing that great it’s just her brain is wired differently or something.

“I will not be outranked by a Stiff,” he hisses, his face so close to mine I can smell his stale breath. “How did you do it, huh? How the hell did you do it?”

Why the hell won’t anyone shut up about her being Abnegation? We’ve halfway through the book and we haven’t had a sentence suggesting they’re cowards, just everyone insisting that she’s super extra special because of course Abnegation transfers would fail.

“Leave her alone,” he says. “Only a coward bullies a little girl.”
“A little girl?” scoffs Peter, throwing off Will’s hand. “Are you blind, or just stupid? She’s going to edge you out of the rankings and out of Dauntless, and you’re going to get nothing, all because she knows how to manipulate people and you don’t. So when you realize that she’s out to ruin us all, you let me know.”

WTF. I’m hoping this is just an overly subtle way of saying she’s fucking Four into giving her better rankings because that’s crappy but otherwise it’s just nonsense.

Apparently it makes sense to them, though, because after the evil crew stalk off Will immediately asks if it’s true.

“Are you trying to manipulate us?”
“How on earth would I do that?” I scowl at him. “I’m just doing the best I can, like anyone else.”
“I don’t know.” He shrugs a little. “By acting weak so we pity you? And then acting tough to psyche us out?”
“Psyche you out?” I repeat. “I’m your friend. I wouldn’t do that.”
He doesn’t say anything. I can tell he doesn’t believe me—not quite.
“Don’t be an idiot, Will,” says Christina, hopping down from her bunk. She looks at me without sympathy and adds, “She’s not acting.”

Her friends are really, really terrible. Okay, they’re frustrated by what’s happening, but this reads to me like their friendship was conditional on being the good strong kids protecting the pitiful weakling, and they’re mad she’s able to handle herself. She hasn’t benefited from acting weak – the only person who arguably has is Al, who she braved knives to protect. And for the most part, she hasn’t been especially weak in the first place – she was low in the rankings the first time because she wasn’t physically fit, but she’s been extremely aggressive and brave the whole time.

Furthermore, while acting weak/tough for mindgames could have a benefit in the first stage, this one is just them fighting their own fears, so their relationships with each other don’t matter much. They’re not directly competing and even indirectly trying to fuck with each other won’t do much good because they’re already facing whatever nightmares their own brains can cook up, so it’s unlikely anyone can do much to tilt that. Plus upsetting them might just make them that much more numb for their next horror session and improve their numbers, who the hell knows?

The only think I can think of is that the trauma is getting to them and they’re turning paranoid, but that’s really not written as paranoid.

After her two friends leave her for being better at anything than they are, she tries to comfort Al, but she doesn’t know anything she can do to make him do better and he doesn’t appreciate her sympathy when she’s not going through the same thing, and finally tells her to leave.

This is not the first time I have failed my family since I got here, but for some reason, it feels that way. Every other time I failed, I knew what to do but chose not to do it. This time, I did not know what to do. Have I lost the ability to see what people need? Have I lost part of myself?

This would work so much better if the opening chapters didn’t inexplicably have her not noticing.

Let’s go back to an early scene. She and her brother are on the bus. A Candor guy climbs on. Her brother jumps up to offer his seat. The book then has her berate herself for not realizing she should’ve done that too. It’d have worked so much better for her to have hesitated, just long enough for her brother to act first. We could continue from there with her noticing things and reacting with momentary hesitation and resentment, and it’d lead naturally to the fact that once she is in Dauntless she starts deliberately choosing not to help.

As it is, we have her spend her Abnegation time saying over and over that she doesn’t see what people need, then she gets to Dauntless where she does but chooses not to half the time, then she says that she always did up until this last moment.

She runs into the Dauntless-born kids, who apparently were told about no one liking a sore loser because they’re here to tell her how great it is. Also, they predicted her lower ranked friends would be jerks about it.

“Why are you shooting a muffin off Marlene’s head?”
“She bet me I couldn’t aim well enough to hit a small object from one hundred feet,” Uriah explains. “I bet her she didn’t have the guts to stand there as I tried. It works out well, really.”

For population reduction.

“You aren’t seriously going to shoot at her, are you?” I ask Uriah.
“It’s not a real gun,” says Lynn quietly. “It’s got plastic pellets in it. The worst it’ll do is sting her face, maybe give her a welt. What do you think we are, stupid?”

Oh thank god finally sanity.

I’m not sure this is what the kids were using when they were introduced to guns, but let’s just assume it was. Also, we’ll declare their medical technology is enough that they can fix the damage of a BB to the eye. It must be relatively good given we keep hearing about Dauntless without being told they’re a mass of scars.

They mention that Eric says initiation is to show you who you are and Four to prepare you, and that they don’t agree much. No word on what the Dauntless community at large thinks of this divide.

Four told me that Eric’s vision for Dauntless is not what it’s supposed to be, but I wish he would tell me exactly what he thinks the right vision is. I get glimpses of it every so often—the Dauntless cheering when I jumped off the building, the net of arms that caught me after zip lining—but they are not enough.

They seem more than enough for me but they did say Amity was the one with the artists so presumably your rejection of the almighty cheese means you’re going to struggle to imagine anything.

Speaking of one devil, Four pops in to tell them out of the unlocked room full of weapons, they’re not supposed to play here.

“Wait a second,” Four says. I turn toward him, wondering which version of Four I’ll see now—the one who scolds me, or the one who climbs Ferris wheels with me.

There really isn’t any big difference between those. The friendly drunk one and the cold rage one are the two extremes. He’s honestly a pretty good teacher most of the time.

And it’s friendly drunk today, with him blurting out that “You belong here, you know that?” he says. “You belong with us. It’ll be over soon, so just hold on, okay?”

So much would be helped by there not being a set number of initiates. If it was just Dauntless meant surviving initiation and being top ranked meant you get to pick your job, it’d work so much better. Have initiates washing out and deciding being factionless is better than spending weeks developing PTSD would work fine and make this pep talk so much more reasonable.

She takes his hand for a moment and they stare at each other, then she heads off with her new friends who don’t hate her for succeeding finally.

I don’t need any of them, not if they’re going to react this way when I do well. If I can make it through initiation, I will be Dauntless, and I won’t have to see them anymore.

See, this really seems right. She goes on to think that she doesn’t want to lose her friends, but I’m really thinking they’re not her friends at this point.

If this was over her winning fights against them, I could see the betrayal and the sense she manipulated them, but all it shows is that the girl who volunteered to get knives thrown at her is pretty good at facing her fears.

She gets up to get water and overhears a secret conversation!

“So far there haven’t been any signs of it.” Eric’s voice. Signs of what?
“Well, you wouldn’t have seen much of it yet,” someone replies. A female voice; cold and familiar, but familiar like a dream, not a real person. “Combat training shows you nothing. The simulations, however, reveal who the Divergent rebels are, if there are any, so we will have to examine the footage several times to be sure.”
The word “Divergent” makes me go cold. I lean forward, my back pressed to the stone, to see who the familiar voice belongs to.
“Don’t forget the reason I had Max appoint you,” the voice says. “Your first priority is always finding them. Always.”

See, already the divergent get a fourth thing, now they’re rebels. There’s still room in the book for another few, so I’m thinking ninja telepaths.

Anyway – Eric’s an Erudite, something about the magic liquid the Erudites manufacture for simulations is important, leader of Erudites is a woman, probably this is the Erudite leader who has taken over Dauntless perhaps? That would explain why the only non-insane virtue they have left is Erudite planning.

Tris quickly summarizes that the female voice is behind everything, but then she’s attacked from behind. Peter is there and she realizes the person covering her mouth is Al. Well, that’s pretty shitty. She’s dragged to the waterfall.

The hands force my back to arch over the railing. My feet leave the ground, and my attackers are the only thing keeping me from falling into the water.
A heavy hand gropes along my chest. “You sure you’re sixteen, Stiff? Doesn’t feel like you’re more than twelve.” The other boys laugh.

As this continues, Al objects and lets go for a second, and she manages to bite someone and then start fighting with her opponents. She gets the blindfold off in time to watch Al fleeing and Peter begins to strangle her over the railing. Luckily his sadism means he doesn’t just throw her off and Four arrives in time to beat the shit out them and rescue her.

Well. As elements that keep popping up in these books go, that wasn’t done badly. She manages to fight back herself, it’s clearly presented as wrong, and it’s actually a lot less rapey than we’ve seen most other times – Peter’s focus seems like it’s on scaring and humiliating her, and everything is a means to that end. Assuming the book doesn’t go on to have Four tell her she probably deserved it anyway, pretty solid.

Al, I’m not sure of. I guess he wasn’t such a good guy after all, and she really misjudged him? I think, given how her friends all turned on her over her score, Al is supposed to show how even nice people can betray you, but assuming he’s not just secretly evil the whole time it’s really sudden and would’ve benefitted from more of a buildup. It doesn’t help that there’s no way he’d even get anything out of this, since he’s dead last and there’s still six of them to cut, so it’s not like he’s partially motivated by fear of being factionless otherwise.

Even just another day, which she spent avoiding them since they made it clear they didn’t want to be around her today, would’ve helped, so he didn’t go straight from her trying to comfort him to time to throw her off a cliff.

(Especially when he’s the only one of any of them who’s expressed any moral concerns – one of her other friends betraying her actually feels more plausible.)


  1. 13thlemur says:
    I was wondering how you’d react to this scene at the end here. It sure as hell wasn’t necessary to have Peter grope Tris but it’s not Unwind levels where the supposed good guy doesn’t care and it is something done to Tris to hurt Tris herself again unlike Unwind. Ideally it wouldn’t even be there but the execution was better then some others.

    Al betraying Tris just felt like character derailment to me. I think one could’ve written it so it would’ve worked but it really was too sudden. Out of all of her friends he seemed to admire/appreciate her strength the most so him suddenly being jealous or threatened by it seems silly – he should’ve shown more hostile behavior towards her after she faced the throwing knives for him if that was the case.

    1. Farla says:
      Eh, it kind of was – Tris’ embarrassment about her body has been really obvious and Peter’s used it against her since they first met, and Dauntless is all about experiencing horrible things so it’d be odd for mutilation to be there but sexual assault kept off the table.

      It’s particularly weird given Al was second to worst already, and the worst kid is gone, so for him, nothing has changed. He only made it through last time because he got lucky. And if he was going to resent her, it would’ve been for being higher ranked before due to her increased violence. Why get upset she does well at facing fears?

      1. sliz225 says:
        The fan’s reaction to the next chapter(s?) pissed me off more than anything else related to the books. Let’s just say that Tris’ reaction to all this is very reasonable, and she gets some shit for it.
        The sexual assault bit is handled well, though. No worries on that front.
  2. actonthat says:
    I kind of wonder if the sudden about-face of her friends was to make it okay for her to abandon them to hang out with the cool older kids. After all, she’s soon going to stop being speshul for being the best of the n00bs, so she’ll need to fill that void in some other way– being the youngest BFF of the big shots works, but she’d need to screw over her friends. If they screw her over first, she can continue to be awesome and also Have Been Wronged.
    1. Socordya says:
      “..and also Have Been Wronged.”

      Yeah, I think it is to maximize the angst/persecution.

      1. sliz225 says:
        Eh, but note that her new friends only care about her now that she’s cool and tough. Neither group is exactly a shining beacon of compassion. I kind of get that Will and Christina would be stressed/miserable/terrified of being kicked out, and lash out unfairly. Still, they’re acting like jerks.
        1. Farla says:
          Eh, I feel there’s something more dangerous about friends that love you only as a failure, because they’ll act to keep you there.
    2. Farla says:
      Ooh, yeah, I think you’re right. She was feeling a bit of guilt about ditching them, then suddenly they turn into assholes.
  3. Hadithi says:
    When I read this, I remember thinking, “Oh, that makes WAY more sense. Divergent means you manipulate the simulation, not that you fit into multiple categories”.

    Upon rereading this, I realize that being Divergent is probably supposed to be both, but I think it works best if it just lets you manipulate the simulation. I mean, for a society that’s run on these things, that’s a problem. The tests don’t work properly because you know they aren’t real, or can do things the simulation doesn’t know how to deal with.

    Not reacting to the chemicals in the simulation could mean there’s a bunch of other chemicals that don’t affect them. There’s plenty you could do with just that concept alone. It’s not that you’re super special, you just got a weird genetic quirk your society really hates.

    But, nope, it’s all about how special Tris is. *sigh*

    1. Socordya says:
      It would probably be better, yes. In the trailer for the movie, we saw her going “it’s not real…” while in the simulation, so maybe they put more emphasis on that part in the movie.
      1. Farla says:
        If they had her need to realize it was a simulation rather than just repeating that to remind herself she’s safe, we could also get a look at what a simulation is supposed to be like. I feel that’s a real loss to the book, we never get to see the experience most people have.
    2. Farla says:
      There isn’t even a token connection! Like, the test seems pretty rigid, maybe fitting more than one faction means none of the set paths quite fit, so you notice the incongruities, and like noticing something’s not right in a dream, realize it’s a simulation and from there you can end up messing with it.
  4. Betty Cross says:
    Fear of drowning, choking, suffocation, and inhaling poisonous fumes form an interlocked complex of fears for me, so Tris being tested for fear of drowning seems frightening to me even w/out the shark.
  5. Tucker says:
    I think the implication here is that Al was going to help them throw Tris over, then kill the others. That’s what, four spaces? And since we started with twenty, that would boost him up to fourteenth. He could conceivably try to win his way up that far, or “accidentally” kill some more initiatives during one of their ridiculous stunts. Desperate people have come up with worse and a lot crazier.
    1. Farla says:
      The thing is, what are the odds he could take several people in a fight? If his goal was to murder his way up the hierarchy in fine Dauntless tradition, he wouldn’t want a plan that involved trying to murder multiple people at once. He’s not even a particularly good fighter – his main advantage is straight up strength, but he’s not stronger than three other people.

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