I OPEN MY eyes to the words “Fear God Alone” painted on a plain white wall. I hear the sound of running water again, but this time it’s from a faucet and not from the chasm. Seconds go by before I see definite edges in my surroundings, the lines of door frame and countertop and ceiling.
Well, that’s a good opening. It’s a shame my first thought is wait, they have a concept of God?
I mean, even if they’re atheists I assume it’d take much, much longer for the cultural idea to fade, but we haven’t seen anyone so much as reference anything god-related before now.
Four is washing the blood off his knuckles. Since he’s still doing it, presumably it’s his own blood by now. And she’s concerned for them, so yeah. He explains Peter escaped like Al did, and Drew is still technically alive in the infirmary.
“He’ll live,” he replies. He adds bitterly, “In what condition, I can’t say.”
It isn’t right to wish pain on other people just because they hurt me first. But white-hot triumph races through me at the thought of Drew in the infirmary, and I squeeze Four’s arm.
“Good,” I say. My voice sounds tight and fierce. Anger builds inside me, replacing my blood with bitter water and filling me, consuming me. I want to break something, or hit something, but I am afraid to move, so I start crying instead.
I’m really pleased by how this is all being handled! She says Four watches her without sympathy and she appreciates this. He offers to report it. “I don’t want them to think I’m scared.” I’d say getting rid of them at this point, regardless of method, is a net win, but then again if you don’t think anyone will act based on stabbing someone’s eye out, it’s likely that they’ll be punished but not thrown out, so it won’t be any sort of victory.
He suggests sticking close to her friends for safety from now on.
“He wanted you to be the small, quiet girl from Abnegation,” Four says softly. “He hurt you because your strength made him feel weak. No other reason.”
I wonder if there were drafts when this would’ve worked, where this would’ve revealed something completely different about when Al said she made him feel stronger. But she’s the one who protected Al. It’s her other two friends who rejected her for not being small and quiet and weak, who got angry when the low ranked girl did better than they did that the second test.
“The others won’t be as jealous if you show some vulnerability. Even if it isn’t real.”
I don’t like the subtext of women responding to assault by acting more humble, but in the situation presented, it does seem like the most pragmatic thing to say. And there’s a sick irony to her friends rejecting her because they think she’s manipulating them by being herself and her having to manipulate them to get them back.
“You think I have to pretend to be vulnerable?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, I do.”
This makes the subtext a little better, but still not pleased with it.
“You’re going to want to march into breakfast tomorrow and show your attackers they had no effect on you,” he adds, “but you should let that bruise on your cheek show, and keep your head down.”
Aside from the subtext…I don’t think this will really work, not for Peter. If attacking her seems to break her nerve, but then she keeps doing better, then the solution is to attack her more, because it’s working.
If attacking her is just giving her more practice challenging fears, then Peter might attack her again anyway – he seems to be more interested in taking out his opponents by force – but he might at least feel a bit discouraged.
“I don’t think you get it.” Heat rises into my face. “They touched me.”
His entire body tightens at my words, his hand clenching around the ice pack. “Touched you,” he repeats, his dark eyes cold.
And I don’t thin this is necessary. It’s impossible to avoid the association with men defending their property now, and it’s all really covered under the fact she was assaulted. The fact he grabbed her breast and the fact he strangled her over the chasm aren’t really different things.
She says not like that but sort of like that almost, and it’s just…this wasn’t needed.
He tells her It is more important for you to be safe than right
“But please, when you see an opportunity…”
So as a full scene, this is okay – pretend weakness if you have to, but only as a feint. It’s just it’s so tied up in cultural narratives I’m leery of the words, even if it’s a situation set up to make them reasonable.
The chapter ends with him saying not to call him Four but that he won’t tell her his name yet.
Next chapter, she sleeps in his bed and thinks about how she likes him.
He is not sweet or gentle or particularly kind. But he is smart and brave, and even though he saved me, he treated me like I was strong.
As love interests go, that’s pretty good.
It’s not just that she’s giving good reasons for loving him, but that they’re specifically her reasons – although she doesn’t use her brain as much as I’d like, she does ask questions at points and when something’s set before her she thinks it through. She values intelligence as she does bravery, even if she’s still feuding with Erudite the faction.
And it’s a contrast with Al, who previously was sweet and kind and she wasn’t interested.
I hate the idea of slumping into the dining hall like this, but Four’s instructions have stayed with me. I have to mend my friendships. I need the protection of seeming weak.
I wonder where this is going with her friendships. They rejected her for poor reasons and now she’s tricking them back for pragmatic reasons. It’s a disappointment after I was enjoying a character who actually had friends, but I like the novelty of this as well – she’s using people without a flash of remorse.
More shippy stuff between her and Four. Then it’s time to head for breakfast.
I am weak already. I brace myself against the wall and press my forehead to my hands. It’s difficult to take deep breaths, so I take short, shallow ones. I can’t let this happen. They attacked me to make me feel weak. I can pretend they succeeded to protect myself, but I can’t let it become true.
You know, okay, objection withdrawn. This is going out of its way to make it clear she’s not actually put in her place by this, and the author’s handled it well. Particularly the next bit:
I pull away from the wall and walk into the dining hall without another thought. A few steps in, I remember I’m supposed to look like I’m cowering, so I slow my pace and hug the wall, keeping my head down.
She slinks to a seat next to Will and Uriah at the next table comes over too. She hunches and winces and tells the story.
I believe Tori’s warning now. Peter, Drew, and Al were ready to throw me into the chasm out of jealousy—what is so unbelievable about the Dauntless leaders committing murder?
This all feels like such a missed opportunity. If, at least as far as she knows, murder and violence don’t happen, she should have had that inform her behavior. She makes it clear being factionless is way worse than death, so build on that! Maybe back when Christina had to hang over the chasm, have Tris thinking that it’s a choice between continuing to hang and admitting defeat and being pulled up, and wondering as it went on if Christina, like her, would choose to risk losing her grip rather than be factionless – then she’s stunned by Eric refusing to let anyone pull Christina up and realizes Christina didn’t actually have that choice. Have part of her shock about Edward being assaulted be just that she can’t understand how it can happen because this kind of thing is in the past. And then this would be an actual change for her, to finally realize that no, things really are this bad.
“But you’re just…” Uriah purses his lips. “It isn’t fair. Three against one?”
Unlike her fairweather faction friends, the Dauntless kids don’t seem to like her only so long as she’s fitting a role, because he still cares when she’s failed.
“It has to be desperation,” says Will. “He’s been acting…I don’t know. Like a different person. Ever since stage two started.”
Why? I could see the end of stage one being a shock – he might not have realized until the end just how bad his rank was, though it’s a stretch. But while Will could technically be wrong, I don’t think there’s any reason for the author to be misattributing things here so slightly, which means it’s Al’s stage two struggles that mark his change. Maybe it’s him breaking down from the stress, but we don’t see that either.
All things considered this seems like characters complaining about plot – yes, he does seem like a different person all of a sudden, doesn’t he.
Drew shows up horribly beaten, and Tris begins to lie outright, saying she doesn’t know who saved her, before explaining she was almost killed.
Uriah says the best revenge isn’t beatings now.
“We have to edge them out of the rankings. That will damage their futures. Permanently.”
While I like his forward thinking, I don’t know why none of them seem to be considering playing by the rules they’ve been presented with – take Peter out of the running with an attack of their own.
And while I can understand none of them jumping to flat out murdering him, I don’t know why it doesn’t seem to be a possibility when it advances all of them. It should be tempting even if the idea horrifies them. Peter is ranked second, meaning everyone but Tris will move up if he’s removed.
“Be careful,” he tells me.
“Don’t worry,” says Will. “We’ll protect her.”
Four leads us out of the dining hall and along the paths that surround the Pit. Will is on my left, Christina is on my right.
“I never really said I was sorry,” Christina says quietly. “For taking the flag when you earned it. I don’t know what was wrong with me.”
That was not some huge betrayal. Tris figured out where the flag was, everyone lauded her for how incredibly smart she was to think of it and brave she was to pull it off, and they were even together for the assault. Christina just was the one to touch it.
If it was clear that it would improve the rank of whoever grabbed it, then Christina was being a dick, because they knew Tris was well behind them. But it was presented as a game and it followed rules that bore no resemblance to theri training fights.
I’m not sure if it’s smart to forgive her or not—to forgive either of them, after what they said to me when the rankings went up yesterday.
The rankings bit is valid but for christ’s sake let the flag bit go.
Anyway, she knows she needs them.
I’m not sure who my true friends are. Uriah and Marlene, who were on my side even when I seemed strong, or Christina and Will, who have always protected me when I seemed weak?
Uriah and Marlene.
It’s possible they’d be as fair-weather as the other two and dump you if you seemed weak, but so far there’s no evidence of that putting them ahead of the people who definitely will dump you if you act wrong. Moreover, you hate the idea of that anyway, so it’s not a consideration, plus Uriah didn’t act at all disapproving when you did your wounded bird act right in front of him. And finally – you might need friends more when you’re weak, but the friends you want are the ones who want you to be strong and aren’t jealous or threatened by that.
Really, the only reason you need to court Will and Christina is that your groups still sleep separately. You need them because they’re your only option.
Four’s eyes shift to my arm around Will’s, and all the humor drains from them. His expression sends a chill through me. Is he…jealous?
And now we’re getting into sketchier territory. I’m trying to think of some way for his expression to be chilling that isn’t her feeling afraid Four will do something violent, but it’s pretty hard. Without that sentence, it’d be possible to take it less horrible ways. Boys being jealous should not send a chill through you.
They head up and up until they’re walking on the glass.
The surrounding buildings are half-collapsed and appear to be abandoned
How much of the place is in ruins at this point? I really hope someone in fandom has made up a map (an actual map not those terrible things the Hunger Games fandom created) because I want a better idea just how dire things are. The impression I’m getting is that the main population is living only in a small circle of the city, plus the farms outside it.
The room is lit by a series of old-fashioned fluorescent tubes with plastic covers—they must be ancient.
But fluorescent tubes don’t last long. And does this mean they’ve lost the ability to manufacture them?
Behind him, the word “Dauntless” is spray-painted in red artistic lettering on a concrete wall.
“Through your simulations, we have stored data about your worst fears. The fear landscape accesses that data and presents you with a series of virtual obstacles. Some of the obstacles will be fears you previously faced in your simulations. Some may be new fears. The difference is that you are aware, in the fear landscape, that it is a simulation, so you will have all your wits about you as you go through it.”
That means that everyone will be like Divergent in the fear landscape. I don’t know if that’s a relief, because I can’t be detected, or a problem, because I won’t have the advantage.
Holy shit you will whine about anything, won’t you? Oh no the final test is set up to make sure no one will find out the super secret that will get me killed – but I won’t get to cheat, oh no!
On top of that, you do so have an advantage – you always go into it knowing it’s a simulation, so you’ll hit the ground running while everyone else has to adjust. You’re just not cheating as much!
Four blathers on about how everyone’s landscape is a different length and how this is about controlling both your body and mind and Just as stage two of initiation is weighted more heavily than stage one, stage three is weighted heaviest of all. because we can’t have established rank mean anything since the story demands the possibility of a surprise upset.
“You can get past each obstacle in one of two ways. Either you find a way to calm down enough that the simulation registers a normal, steady heartbeat, or you find a way to face your fear, which can force the simulation to move on. One way to face a fear of drowning is to swim deeper, for example.”
Huh. That suggests divergence is something else – breaking the glass had nothing to do with facing her fear, after all. It does follow from being lucid, so it’s not like the lack of connection between fitting multiple factions and being lucid in the simulations, but it’s still yet another special thing about divergence and there’s still no unifying explanation.
“That doesn’t sound fair,” says Peter. “What if one person only has seven fears and someone else has twenty? That’s not their fault.”
Why is Peter speaking up? Because it gives Four an opening to mock him for what he did last night and how it proves he’s afraid of a short, skinny girl from Abnegation which is a smart move for Four. It’d work better if the rankings didn’t seem to be objective and Peter could be scared into compliance by the idea the instructors might penalize this sort of thing, but that’s not Four’s fault.
Then they head back to the dorm.
“Tris,” says Al, his voice breaking. “Can I talk to you?”
“Are you kidding?” Will squeezes my shoulders. “You don’t get to come near her ever again.”
“I won’t hurt you. I never wanted to…” Al covers his face with both hands. “I just want to say that I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I don’t…I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I…please forgive me, please….”
He reaches for me like he’s going to touch my shoulder, or my hand, his face wet with tears.
Somewhere inside me is a merciful, forgiving person. Somewhere there is a girl who tries to understand what people are going through, who accepts that people do evil things and that desperation leads them to darker places than they ever imagined. I swear she exists, and she hurts for the repentant boy I see in front of me.
But if I saw her, I wouldn’t recognize her.
“Stay away from me,” I say quietly. My body feels rigid and cold, and I am not angry, I am not hurt, I am nothing. I say, my voice low, “Never come near me again.”
Our eyes meet. His are dark and glassy. I am nothing.
“If you do, I swear to God I will kill you,” I say. “You coward.”
I…don’t know what to think of this.
I like that she shuts him down, I like that she doesn’t want or need to forgive him and that it’s not her problem he’s sad now, but this seems too much like Tris’ violence, where it’s partly a flaw.
Is Al repentant, really? He’s sorry, but what is he sorry for? For Tris finding out, for it backfiring on him? How can he be excused by desperation when nothing he did helped him? The only way this would have improved his rank is if it made Tris plummet to the bottom or killed her directly, and even that would only move him up a single notch – I don’t think, of the eight remaining Dauntless-born, five of them are ranked below him.
The only explanation for what Al did is he lashed out at her, but that throws more doubt on the idea it’s possible to forgive this. Someone who turns on you once because of their own feelings will probably do it again, and you won’t even see it coming because it’s not about you.
I think I can see what the author was going for here, and if Al’s behavior had been set up differently it might have worked, but the fact there’s no real explanation for why he did it and the only justifications we’ve seen are that the second stage has changed him or that he turned on Tris because she did too well. Those don’t work with the idea we can understand why he did it and allow for the possibility of forgiveness. What actually happened is he turned on her in a horribly premeditated way and he’s apologizing now only after she found out he was part of it. I just can’t see it as him being a good person who’s been twisted into doing the wrong thing, so I can’t believe it’s a situation where it’s a question of being able to forgive someone after they do something terrible to you rather than one where a person is terrible and will do the same to you next time.