Last time on Dauntless, suicide, finding out about Four, continuing to reject the idea the Erudites have any point, and kissing.
THE NEXT MORNING I am silly and light. Every time I push the smile from my face, it fights its way back. Eventually I stop suppressing it. I let my hair hang loose and abandon my uniform of loose shirts in favor of one that cuts across my shoulders, revealing my tattoos.
“What is it with you today?” says Christina on the way to breakfast. Her eyes are still swollen from sleep and her tangled hair forms a fuzzy halo around her face.
“Oh, you know,” I say. “Sun shining. Birds chirping.”
She raises an eyebrow at me, as if reminding me that we are in an underground tunnel.
“Let the girl be in a good mood,” Will says. “You may never see it again.”
Al is dead, remember? It’s not just that she’s happy right after Al’s death – after what he did, and given he had a lot more reasons for killing himself than her not accepting his shitty apology, I think they could even understand if her reaction to the suicide was sun shining, birds chirping. But no, she was really broken up about his death – then suddenly she’s grinning madly and on top of the world, like she’s had a personality transplant. This should be really disturbing to everyone else.
Incidentally, note she chose something that exposes her shoulders and explicitly does show off her tattoos. Right after she got an Abnegation symbol tattoo and claimed it was okay because her buddy Tori who’s on her side did the tattoo so no one would know.
If she’s so dead set on this, cover story! “I got a tattoo because I hate those fuckers and they’re what I’m most proud of overcoming.” See? Then she could have it safely. She’s fine at lying, especially under pressure, so she should be able to handle it. It’d be a risk, but risks are fine, she’s Dauntless and all. But no, she has to refuse to even see the problem.
My heart pounds because I know that at some point in the next half hour, I will see Tobias. I sit down in my usual place, next to Uriah, with Will and Christina across from us. The seat on my left stays empty. I wonder if Tobias will sit in it; if he’ll grin at me over breakfast; if he’ll look at me in that secret, stolen way that I imagine myself looking at him.
Okay, I know love makes you stupid but there are limits. She might think it’d be really awesome if that happened, but even if she doesn’t see that her new boyfriend is incredibly shy and doesn’t want people to know anything about him, there’s the obvious part where he is her teacher (ethics!) and this would also look like favoritism to Peter (murdering sociopath!) as well as make the higher ups legitimately concerned that her super good scores were actual favoritism and examine the recordings (divergence murder!).
Then he comes in and pointedly ignores her and she’s all T_T
What did I expect? Just because we kissed doesn’t mean anything changes. Maybe he changed his mind about liking me. Maybe he thinks kissing me was a mistake.
So once the romance starts, it’s still going to hit all the usual idiot tropes.
Her friends say that today they get to try out the fear landscape using one of the instructors as the model rather than facing their own. Her friends hope it’s Four because they bet he’s afraid of marshmallows and stuff and that’s why he’s all srsbsns all the time.
I shake my head. “It won’t be him.”
“How would you know?”
“It’s just a prediction.”
SHUT UP TRIS.
She then explains for anyone who skipped the chapter that Tobias wouldn’t want people to see his dad. Yes, no shit. He exclusively uses a nickname he doesn’t even seem to like (he doesn’t just say she should use his real name but that he’s happy to have someone use it) just to avoid anyone knowing who he is.
The fear landscape is Lauren’s. She’s been doing the Dauntless-born’s initiation, and I’m sad we haven’t heard much about it or her. This book is good with female characters in that they’re all over, but it does have the problem of them still being outnumbers and out-importanced. Plus, are the Dauntless-born getting treated to the same abuse as the transfers? We know Eric’s been breathing down the transfers’ necks and I believe he’s been there every day, which suggests transfers may be less protected so he can get away with more, but it could also be that he’s there to harass Four, or that the transfers are more likely to give him jackoff material. It’d be nice to know if Lauren enforces the rule about fighting until you drop, or if the Dauntless-born have never bothered to ask because they can’t imagine not doing so. Has she put any of them in harm’s way as punishment? Would the Dauntless-born be surprised by what’s happened to the transfers or is it considered acceptable?
“Two years ago,” she says, “I was afraid of spiders, suffocation, walls that inch slowly inward and trap you between them, getting thrown out of Dauntless, uncontrollable bleeding, getting run over by a train, my father’s death, public humiliation, and kidnapping by men without faces.”
Well, that’s a nice mix.
We learn that most people have ten to fifteen fears.
“What’s the lowest number someone has gotten?” asks Lynn.
“In recent years,” says Lauren, “four.”
I have not looked at Tobias since we were in the cafeteria, but I can’t help but look at him now. He keeps his eyes trained on the floor. I knew that four was a low number, low enough to merit a nickname, but I didn’t know it was less than half the average.
Firstly, the average is 12.5, meaning it’s one third the average. Come on, Tris, you qualified for Erudite you must be able to math properly. Second, few fears you’re obsessed with and can’t get past is not inherently better than a bunch of fears. Personally, I would think the ideal Dauntless is Tori. She has fears, she overcomes those fears. She probably has new fears to overcome afterward, but the point of Dauntless is to beat fear, and Four seems locked in a four-piece rut.
Tris whines he’s so great but he doesn’t like her.
I give Christina a pointed look. I was right; we won’t go through Four’s landscape.
Why the hell are you hung up on this? Why are you obsessed with proving you were right and she was wrong? Not only do you only know that because of information she doesn’t have, but she wasn’t even saying it was likely! They were curious about him, just like you, so they hoped they’d find out more here. That’s all.
Everyone only has to deal with one fear. Hers is kidnapping, suggesting they deliberately try to pick a fear that’ll resonate with the kids. That makes sense. We saw Tris had no problem with anything in Tobias’, and you wouldn’t want the kids to come out of this thinking the non-lucid simulations may be terrifying but the fear landscape ones will be fine because she says this is to show how it actually works and giving them non-scary ones mean it’s likely they’ll panic about failing the test the moment it starts on their own and they find themselves afraid.
With that in mind, Lauren presumably only uses eight of her fears, because her dad dying won’t mean anything to the person it’s assigned to and I’m pretty sure from Tobias that the fear generation can’t throw up a general fear of father death scenario but only the specific instance a person has.
Because I’m not hooked up to the computer as I wait, I can’t watch the simulation, only the person’s reaction to it.
Seriously? They watch it on a computer screen, they shouldn’t have any trouble just having the screen there for the rest of the kids to gawk at.
She then points out she has two advantages the rest of the kids get – she’s not only used to being lucid in the simulations, but she even got to try out the fear landscape already. She continues to not see any problem with getting unfair advantages.
Then the scenery changes and the kidnapping begins. The ground turns into grass beneath my feet, and hands clamp around my arms, over my mouth. It is too dark to see.
I stand next to the chasm. I hear the roar of the water. I scream into the hand that covers my mouth and thrash to free myself, but the arms are too strong; my kidnappers are too strong. The image of myself falling into darkness flashes into my mind, the same image that I now carry with me in my nightmares. I scream again; I scream until my throat hurts and I squeeze hot tears from my eyes.
I knew they would come back for me; I knew they would try again. The first time was not enough. I scream again—not for help, because no one will help me, but because that’s what you do when you’re about to die and you can’t stop it.
So. All the PTSD she should have gotten from the other simulations but only the thing that happened in the real world stuck.
Like with the net they wouldn’t admit was there and the implication that the guns only had pellets the whole time, I think you can find evidence Dauntless is trying to prevent this from being a straight up meatgrinder. Lasting trauma has to do with how your brains write memories. The simulations don’t seem to be dreams, they’re much too vivid and lasting, but the nanobots controlling her brain may be preventing the memories from writing with fear associations. When it’s over, she remembers it and then experiences the fear with it because it’s a scary thing, but it never gets the initial, all important panic tags attacked to it that make it read differently than normal memories.
There’s evidence you can erase PTSD by drugging people then triggering them. When they withdraw the memory, the panic can’t activate, and so when it’s reshelved, it doesn’t keep the panic tag on it that’s the core problem. The nanobot serum could be bypassing this stage by just making sure the panic tag is never included.
Which, come to think of it, may mean we just watched her get fixed of the trauma by having an episode – the memory was taken out while she was under the influence of the serum, which means it’ll get reshelved with the serum and the tag lost.
(This would also mean that the Dauntless who don’t know how the serum work would end up with an unjustified idea of their superiority. Continually “facing their fears” through simulation would strip the tags off while if you’re traumatized in the other factions you’re just stuck trying to work through it like a regular person. It’d be really hard to notice – you’d just know that sometimes, going in activates a fear that’s especially bad and you failed, but then you tried again and the second time the fear wasn’t so bad. Meanwhile, trying to provoke the other factions’ members into facing their fears provokes a meltdown every time. What’s wrong with those cowards?)
Anyway she botches and they stop the simulation.
My body shakes, and I drop to my knees, pressing my hands to my face. I just failed. I lost all logic, I lost all sense.
And look at that. She was triggered (especially since she experienced being by the chasm when I was speculating the fear landscape can’t change to incorporate your own fears) but the simulation ended and she’s already out of it and just thinking she fucked up what went wrong? Being under the serum let the memory be put back properly and ended the episode, so now she’s just got some stress hormones to flush and angst over failing to work through.
And everyone saw me. Tobias saw me.
Tris he’s seen you handle this stuff every time you’ve been put under. You say what you like about him is that when he does see you fail he doesn’t treat you as worthless for it. You had no problem dragging him through his own fears rather than sitting there judging him for not going fast enough.
I hear footsteps. Tobias marches toward me and wrenches me to my feet.
“What the hell was that, Stiff?”
“I…” My breath comes in a hiccup. “I didn’t—”
“Get yourself together! This is pathetic.”
I will grant that Tris isn’t in the state of mind to understand what’s going on here, but at the same time, the reader has no such problem and we’ve now spent half the book on Tris misunderstanding his behavior.
And indeed, his words help her by reminding her the solution to fear and doubt is anger, which she explicitly describes as driving out the weakness in her. Therefore she punches him in the face. They will be very happy together.
This is short, but unfortunately the next chapter is incredibly long and I want to get to sleep. I’ll post that tomorrow.