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Beatrice Prior, the narrator and protagonist of Divergent, is a smart and stubborn sixteen-year-old girl. Initially, she lives with her mother, father, and brother in Abnegation, the faction focused on selflessness and humility, but it’s clear as the novel opens that she isn’t at home there. Although the faction trains its members not to express their individual desires, Beatrice has been thinking about her unhappiness within her faction and wishing she could be Dauntless. She doesn’t talk openly with others about her feelings, but as the novel’s narrator, she constantly gives readers hints about her worries and hopes. For example, she longingly watches the Dauntless jump from the train outside school, then chastises herself for doing so. Her sense that she’s different makes her feel both guilty and defiant, and these feelings are exacerbated when her aptitude test reveals that she’s Divergent. Because her abilities are associated with three different factions (Dauntless, Erudite, and Abnegation), and because she can think her way out of each simulated scenario she encounters, she doesn’t fall neatly into a single category. People like her are known as “Divergent,” a label that suggests they’ve strayed from the narrow paths society has set for them.
Throughout Dauntless training, Beatrice’s test responses give readers a window into her creative and quick-thinking character. She’s stubborn, she can lie with ease, and perhaps most importantly, she doesn’t need to use violence to get out of danger. But the secrecy that surrounds Divergence makes Tris nervous, and she spends a great deal of mental energy hiding both her difference and her fear from others. At the same time, the Dauntless initiation process leads her to question her values. She constantly feels torn between being brave and unselfish. She is smart but physically small, so her performance swings between poor and excellent depending on the type of challenge she faces. Her moods change based on her performance, as well as in response to how others treat her. One moment she rejoices in her victory over Molly in the sparring ring, while the next she’s convinced she’s a terrible person. Although her churning feelings make her moody, her thoughtfulness can also be an asset. It helps her perform well during the simulations, and she’s well liked by others because she is principled and responsible as well as brave.
Tris is troubled by having to constantly lie and withhold information, but she gets increasingly better at expressing herself confidently over the course of training. She also learns to trust her skills and impulses as she grows closer to Tobias (Four). When she first realizes she’s attracted to him, she’s nervous that he will reject her for the smallest misstep during training. But when Tobias turns out to be supportive of her Abnegation traits as well as her Dauntless ones, she begins to realize she can be both brave and unselfish rather than forcing herself to choose between them.