Quote 5

“I don’t care about the factions.” She shakes her head. “Look where they got us. Human beings as a whole cannot be good for long before the bad creeps back in and poisons us again.”

In Chapter Thirty-Five, Tris’s mother finds her in the Erudite compound and rescues her from drowning in a glass tank. As she and Tris are escaping the compound, Tris apologizes for leaving Abnegation, which she still sees as a betrayal of her family. Her mother responds by dismissing the factions. The moment confirms something Tris had already begun to suspect: her mother is both selfless and brave. She grew up in Dauntless, and even after decades of Abnegation life, she’s able to infiltrate the compound, shoot several guards, and rescue her daughter from certain death. She even has the courage to dismiss the entire social system as a failure. By expressing her opinion that the government is wrong, she provides Tris with a role model for independent thinking and action.

On one level, Tris’s mother’s observation is pessimistic: she insists that human nature will always revert to evil, a notion that recalls the Biblical idea of original sin. But because her behavior is courageous and kind, her observation about “human beings as a whole” suggests that the collective faction system, not individuals, has caused harmful elements to “creep back in and poison” their society. By this point, we’ve seen that the social system is quasi-fascist. It assumes that only one faction is worthy of governing, and it limits people’s choices and actions, supposedly for the good of the state. The factions don’t create any outlets for members to express feelings that don’t conform to their values. The Dauntless initiation process is like training to join a military that doesn’t tolerate dissent. Tris’s mother not only rejects the notion that the collective interest should trump individual virtue – she also prioritizes familial love over loyalty to one’s faction.