Free Four (Divergent)

Divergent actually contains a total of eight books at the moment due to the ebook cashgrab thing. Four of those take place before the rest of the books, so I’m not sure what they might have spoilers for and when they should be read, but one is a retelling of a scene that happened in the middle of Divergent, so I figured it’d be fair game.

Remember that knife scene? It’s time to hear what it was from Four’s POV!

I wouldn’t have volunteered to train the initiates if not for the smell of the training room— the scent of dust and sweat and sharpened metal. This was the first place I ever felt strong. Every time I breathe this air I feel it again.

Wow, the opening of the story and already the author’s killed what I like about the character. Four wasn’t training them to try to protect them from Eric or because he wants to encourage non-evil in the initiates. He just likes hanging out in the training room.

Four goes on to say Eric was particularly cranky that day because not only did Four win capture the flag by picking Tris who won capture the flag, but apparently also evil Max consulted him rather than Eric about how the initiates were doing and this is a super big deal.

More interestingly, Eric was eating a bran muffin at the time! That is the only mention of bran muffins. Maybe this is meant to be part of him being a secret evil Erudite instead of eating yummy banana-nut muffins.

I hate when he treats me like his lackey, like I didn’t knock out one of his teeth during our own initiation.

So the real tension between the two is because Four resents the fact they have a chain of command that’s not completely based on who can beat who in a fight.

Four then makes a classy comparison between the initiates all trying to get a knife to factionless kids over a spare piece of bread but Tris is better than that, because hungry factionless kids are scum. He goes on to add that he likes how she knows these weapons are unnatural yet she finds a way to wield them. Tool use is unnatural, I guess.

I requested that the knife-throwing be taken from the training curriculum this year, because it serves no actual purpose other than fueling the Dauntless bravado. No one here will ever use it except to impress someone, the way I will impress them now. Eric would say that dazzling people can be useful, which is why he denied my request, but it’s everything I hate about Dauntless.

Really. The biggest problem with Dauntless is learning something that could be useful in a fight but there are better options so it’s not the best use of training time.

Not the murder. Not the suicidal disregard for safety. Not the fight to the death business. Not training them to view each other as enemies.

The other factions call us brutish, as if we don’t use our minds, but that is all I do here.

I’m not totally sure given the factions are all insane, but I’d assume they were called brutish for all the insane brutality.

He learned to throw great from his own teacher during initiation.

Amar was also the one who gave me my name, back in the days when the first thing initiates did upon arriving in the Dauntless compound was go through our fear landscapes.

Which is to say, two years ago.

Why did this change?

What we saw in the book had a certain logic to it. The physical component was first. It weeds out the least fit kids, so you don’t waste time teaching anti-fear techniques to someone who won’t isn’t fit enough to handle the paramilitary murdery bits, and it got kids used to the basic idea of facing things they don’t like – they have to step into a ring with another kid and get punched, and the next day they have to do it again. It’s a good intermediary step before being tortured with nightmares.

Then it’s PTSD generator time, when they experience fears in general. Then the fear landscape to measure how much they’ve learned. The fear landscape also works well as a capstone, because it’s one big thing and it’s even designed for an audience to watch the person run around.

So what was the other way? Was their final section PTSD generator? That does seem the purest outgrowth of Dauntless and the fear landscape is an okay stepping stone to it, but it’s hard to see how the community would be observing that unless they saw the fears themselves and Four seems to keep his fears secret. And in that case where does the fighting fit in? The middle, giving them a breather between the two? From Tori’s description, her brother’s initiation had the PTSD generator part in the middle to end of initiation, since he gets really good at it over time before accidentally being thrown off a cliff shortly before the end. Unless back then the final stage of initiation took forever, the PTSD generator part sounds like it was the middle. But that’d mean the final would be a day of punching, which seems dumb.

This all smacks of retcon.

Apparently Amar was loved by everyone and also he’s dead.

Four explains he hates Peter for being a bully and supposedly this is rare despite the fact he spent the actual book being bitchy at just about everyone.

I have to admit that Christina is good—though I don’t like giving credit to Candor smartmouths—

See? He is a fount of hate.

He’s also an idiot, saying the same thing as Tris does about how shocking it is the big boy who likely never had to worry about bullying before isn’t good at handling bullying and taunts. This smacks of an author blindspot.

it takes more bravery for Al to say no than for Eric to force him to get a knife to the back of the head, which is something Eric will never understand.

Similarly, of course Eric understands it, he’s a bully, bullies understand this just fine. He’s not sincerely trying to get the kids to overcome fear, he’s just using this as an excuse to terrorize them. You can tell because he’s angry every time they actually do overcome fear instead of being terrorized.

During his fear landscape, he never moved an inch; he just stood still, screaming into clenched teeth, and somehow maneuvered his heartbeat down to an acceptable level using his breath. I didn’t know it was possible to conquer fear in your body before you did it in your mind. That was when I knew I should be wary of him.

Well, that’s weird but the fact he had the strength of will to not move and manipulate his breathing doesn’t seem any different than manipulating down your heartbeat.

And why is this the problem? Eric with a vicious grin at watching other people scream would be something bad. But the author appears to be saying flat out that knowledge = evil. He was smart enough to know how to control his body, therefore he is a psychopath who will kill everyone.

When Eric orders Al up, Four tells us this will end in maiming or death for Al, with horror, as every fight I’ve witnessed has even though none of the initiation fights so far have ended in maiming or death. If it was fights with Eric specifically that did this, it might make more sense.

Four’s master plan for handling this is to stand there. Then Eric calls him forward to throw the knives, something he should’ve volunteered for if he seriously though Eric was going to “accidentally” throw a knife through Al’s throat, and Four proceeds to bitch that this is just as bad because now Al won’t be hurt but it means Four will be cruel and following Eric’s orders and that’s every bit as bad.

Eric says, “You’re going to stand there as he throws those knives until you learn not to flinch.”

And honestly, this is not that big of a deal if Four knows what he’s going. There is certainly a concern that by flinching Al will hurt himself, but if Four starts off by aiming over his head, he’s not going to be able to get himself stabbed unless he starts jumping. Compared to Eric deliberately turning him into a shishkabob, it’s a pretty good outcome.

Max asked me to be a faction leader and I should have said yes; I would have, if I had known that I would prevent things like this, things like dangling initiates over the chasm and forcing them to beat each other senseless.

Now, in the book itself, Four isn’t joining as leader because he can’t handle the thought of seeing his dad again, which is understandable and a good bit of characterization for members of a group that revolves around bravery and fear. Here, it seems like he didn’t because he didn’t feel like it but now he’s thinking he should’ve, even though also he still could any minute he felt like it.

There’s the additional plot hole now that we know that Max is planning to use mind control to zombify his faction and use them to murder all of Abnegation, and I find it hard to believe Max would misjudge Four by that much.

I have to do what Eric says. My only other choice is leaving the room, and if I leave, Eric will throw the knives himself, which I can’t allow.

Exactly, Four, so why did he need to force you to do this and why are you spending so much time on it as if this all isn’t obvious? Move along.

Tris speaks up.

And then his eyes shift to mine, just for a second. It’s like he knows, he knows I have a thing for her, so he’s going to force me to throw knives at her.

So we’re also losing the sense their relationship was okay because Four thought she could handle this kind of stuff.

She tips her chin up and looks at me with that Abnegation stubbornness I know so well. She may have left them, but they are what’s making her strong.

Having finished the book, it’s still not clear to me why stubbornness would be Abnegation.

Tris’ Abnegation-related strength seems to be the ability to put herself aside when she needs to, and even then mostly she gets by on the fact she’s just really brave and it’s weird the book kept trying to make that into Abnegation-specific bravery. For that to work, she should’ve seemed cowardly until she was needed, and also the whole plot falls apart because she wouldn’t have left Abnegation. Maybe if things were reworked so she left because she thought she wasn’t good enough to be one of them rather than for herself. I like it much better as it is than Tris only getting strength in service of others anyway.

She is not like the girls I used to stare at, all bend and curve and softness.

Arg a not like the other girls.

He can’t possibly be attracted to girls like her. He’s attracted to generic girl cuteness until he met The One who made him stop caring about attractiveness.

Where is he even seeing curvy soft girls in Dauntless?

“You about done, Stiff?” I say.
Stiff. That’s why you’re strong, get it?
She looks angry. “No.”
Why on earth would she get it? She can’t read minds, for God’s sake.

Right. Which is why you came off so much better when you didn’t think you two were communicating in code at all.

The scene repeats with him wailing every line about how doesn’t she understaaaand?

“Yes, I did,” I say. “And you should thank me for helping you—” I want to explain about Eric and how badly he wants to hurt me and everyone I even remotely care for, or about how I know where her strength comes from and wanted to remind her, but she doesn’t give me a chance.

See how stupid he is now?

In the book, it came off as annoyed that she hadn’t realized Eric needed blood to be satisfied. Here, apparently he’s talking about how he and Eric have a secret feud that goes beyond anything she could imagine.

One of the things that strikes me about this is how fanficcy it feels. It’s not just that it’s lower quality writing, or that it’s retelling a scene without adding anything to it. It’s that the author seems to be adding things in that weren’t there.

I mean, let’s repeat that bit there

“Yes, I did,” I say. “And you should thank me for helping you—” I want to explain about Eric

Original line and new bit do not match up at all. If he wanted to explain about Eric, something he knows she doesn’t know about, that should be what he’s saying. Instead he starts off saying she should say thanks, which only works if the conversation was about something Tris should have been able to intuit – even if she didn’t grasp that he was doing the whole goading to keep her brave thing, she really ought to have figured out Eric is sadistic and giving him what he wants gets it over with better, so it’s better for Four to insult her and throw fewer knives than let Eric get bored and start suggesting Four see if he can throw knives between her fingers or something.

This only becomes more obvious as the conversation continues:
“You know, I’m getting a little tired of waiting for you to catch on!” I say.

He still hasn’t explained about Eric and the stuff he admits she can’t possibly know. He can’t be tired of waiting for her to catch on because he was planning to tell her!

And this renders the next session nonsense, because when she accuses him of being like Eric he’s all horrified she could think that, even though again, extra information she doesn’t know he was planning to explain that would make it make sense. So he continues to not do that, because in the original scene he didn’t probably because in the original scene none of this was an issue.

His temper problems look very different from this POV as well.

“I am not sadistic.” I lean closer to her and suddenly I feel nervous, like something is prickling in my chest. “If I wanted to hurt you, don’t you think I would have already?” She’s close enough to touch, but if she thinks I’m like Eric, that will never happen. Of course she thinks I’m like Eric. I just threw knives at her head. I screwed it all up. Permanently.
I have to get out.

In the book, I assumed he knew he was being menacing there, and that he retreated because he knows he’s got problems and works to control them. Here, he doesn’t make any mention of being angry despite clearly being so in the book, and he retreats because he’s frustrated she doesn’t like him.

This makes me much less happy with the pairing. He’s not dangerous but trying to be a decent person. He’s apparently totally oblivious of his ball of rage problems. And the table stabbing? He’s because he’s mad and the table’s there, not because of any deliberate attempt to redirect violence and get the sharp things out of his hand.

Then Four tells us he’s decided fuck it I’mma join the factionless, also Abnegation so great. Why? Presumably it has to do with the Dauntless being assholes, but earlier he’s thinking about how the faction leaders would totally still take him and he could fix stuff that way. He still won’t give any reason for why he didn’t join the leaders when he has such strong opinions on what Dauntless should be.

And now she hates me and I can’t even leave Dauntless to join the factionless, like I was going to, because Eric’s eye is on her like it was on Amar last year, right before he turned up dead on the pavement near the railroad tracks.

So Eric murdered someone everyone else liked with no repercussions. Also, why the fuck don’t you just murder Eric already? Especially if you’re leaving for the factionless? You could murder him on your way out and kill two birds with one shove off the train.

Apparently this is because Amar was divergent and Four is divergent too but got a fluke test result and yet somehow he knows he’s divergent anyway.

Then the scene ends with Four declaring he’ll stay because he likes Tris.

So as I said, that was fanficcy as fuck. The general quality of the writing was lower, probably because the author didn’t bother/think she needed to polish it as much. It’s retelling a canon scene that is an obvious candidate for it on first glance, since it’s a scene where there must be a lot going on in Four’s head, but a terrible idea if you think about it one second longer, since the scene makes it clear enough. The new additions just serve to feel like they don’t fit into the original, and other bits just sound dumb when you hear them directly. And it makes sense – Four’s character is supposed to be one you can figure out without needing to be in his head, since the reader manages that just fine, so presenting it directly gives us a character that seems all too simple.

Hm. Looking at her post on the subject, it seems she really did just make stuff up here.

I really wanted to choose something that would change our (I say “our” because it changed mine, too) perceptions about the story, and show how limited Tris’s perspective really is, though she is a reliable and observant narrator. And the knife-throwing scene was perfect for that–once I started writing, I discovered all kinds of things about Four that I didn’t know

Which is probably why the new things about Four don’t seem to fit the original scene.

4 Comments

  1. Socordya says:
    Well, I suppose it’s a good thing the author admitted she just made it up, because then you can more easily pretend this ebook didn’t happen and go with your original interpretation of the scene.
    1
    1. Farla says:
      It does help for some reason. I can still believe the original reading was the intended one at the time this way.
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  2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    That was painful to read about, it did so much violence to what worked in the original scene.

    Well, at least Roth’s consistent in (a) turning Four angsty and annoying when she writes from his POV and (b) retconning whenever she writes a new work, to the point that the more she writes, the less sense anything makes.

    Four’s secret desire to have ditched Dauntless and joined the factionless is backfilling a plot hole from the future, where it’s casually referenced that he intended to do this. Nothing that happens surrounding that revelation requires it, and it never amounts to anything useful.

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    1. Farla says:
      I think this might actually be published after the second book, in which case it’s not even trying to avoid a future plothole, it’s the book having fallen in and now the author’s gotta try to pretend it was totally planned all along.

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