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Shaken by her failure, Tris wants to go home but knows she can’t. Instead, ignoring the rule against leaving without supervision, she visits Caleb at the Erudite compound. She finds him in the central library, and they go to a nearby park to talk privately. Caleb reveals that the Erudite seem to be planning something terrible, but he’s conflicted about whom to trust. Tris sees his hesitation as a betrayal of Abnegation and angrily turns to go, but first, she tells Caleb their mother wants him to research the simulation serum.
Before she can leave, two Erudite men approach and tell her to come with them. They take her to headquarters to see Jeanine, the Erudite leader. When Jeanine speaks, Tris realizes her voice is the one from the aptitude test. She was also the woman Tris heard talking with Eric in the hallway before Peter, Drew, and Al attacked her. Jeanine asks Tris probing questions about her missing test results, and Tris tells a series of lies to avoid revealing she’s Divergent.
Back at the Dauntless compound, Eric confronts Tris and threatens to punish her and her friends. Tobias appears, and they pretend Tris ran away out of embarrassment after Tobias rejected her romantically. After Eric departs, Tobias explains he yelled at Tris to avoid showing favoritism. She understands and agrees to meet him later that night. Back at the dorm, Christina reveals she kissed Will. Tris decides not to tell her about kissing Tobias, though she’d like to. Late that night, Tris and Tobias hop a train into the city and kiss passionately along the way. When they arrive, Tobias shows her that the Erudite compound’s lights are on, violating the rules. He says that before training started, he discovered computer files detailing Erudite’s plans for war against Abnegation. Tris realizes Erudite must need the Dauntless as soldiers, but she doesn’t know how they plan to take control.
On initiation day, the Dauntless compound is raucous and rowdy, and many people are drunk by noon. After taking her lunch back to the dorm, Tris realizes she’s chosen traditional Abnegation foods and wonders if she picked the wrong faction. She falls asleep and is woken up by Christina. Together, they walk to the Pit for initiation. Each initiate is timed as they go through their fear landscape in front of a judging panel. Meanwhile, the other initiates watch their reactions, including their heart rates, on large screens, and cheer as each person finishes. The transfers are tested in reverse order of their rankings, so Tris must wait until last. When her name is called, she walks to the front of the room, and Eric injects her with an orange liquid.
Tris remembers Tobias’s observation that the final initiation stage is about mental preparation. She realizes that her first fear scenario isn’t really about a giant flock of birds: it’s about losing control. As the crows approach, instead of hitting them with her hands, she imagines feeling powerful. She recalls the feeling of holding a gun, and a gun appears in the grass. She shoots the birds and the scene fades. Next, she finds herself enclosed in a glass box. Her attempt to break the glass with her hand fails, so she imagines the glass is made of ice, and it shatters with her next blow. Next she escapes drowning, and avoids being burned at the stake by summoning a rainstorm. She remains calm when threatened with capture by mangled bodies. Then she confronts her fear of sex, telling Tobias she won’t sleep with him in a hallucination. Lastly, an apparition of Jeanine points a gun at Tris and orders her to kill her entire family. Remembering that selflessness can be brave, Tris drops her gun and offers her own life instead.
As Tris heads to the testing room with the other trainees, readers get a glimpse of the initiates’ main role in the Dauntless faction: to be faceless members of large, powerful crowd. As the shortest person in the group, Tris observes that the multitude of bodies makes it difficult to breathe. Her sense of suffocation is the antithesis of the exhilaration she felt while running down the stairs after the Choosing Ceremony. At first, joining Dauntless gave her a rush of freedom, but initiation has shown her the darker, more restrictive elements of Dauntless life. Throughout training, the ethical concerns of individual initiates have been suppressed in the name of faction unity. Peter’s continued success, and the fact that Eric has been made a leader, shows that the easiest way to advance in the faction is through violence. Even the fear simulation scenarios tend to encourage the trainees to attack and kill. Tris shoots swarming birds, Tobias kills a faceless woman, and multiple initiates are ordered to murder their own family members. Though Tris doesn’t know it, these scenarios are preparing the Dauntless to follow orders to kill members of Abnegation.
In Chapter Twenty-Five, Tris worried that Jeanine, the head of Erudite, might be planning a revolution, and the events of this section prove that her concerns were justified. Her conversation with Caleb confirms that something bad is going on in Erudite, though he can’t pinpoint exactly what. Jeanine’s interrogation of Tris directly afterward reveals that the authorities have been keeping a close eye on her, possibly because she poses a threat to their scheme. Finally, Tobias confirms Tris’s sense that a terrible plot is underway when he reveals that the Dauntless computers contain explicit war plans. He hasn’t reported this discovery to Dauntless leaders. It’s clear that no one except the Dauntless and Erudite leaders are meant to know about the coming war, so Tobias and Tris’s knowledge may put them in danger.
Tris has stopped trusting the faction leaders, but she plays dumb with them in order to stay safe. She purposely acts naïve and brash to put Jeanine off her trail, showing she knows how to act like a stereotypical Dauntless when necessary. With Eric, by contrast, she pretends to be a lovelorn teenage girl sulking about a rejected crush so he won’t suspect that she left the faction to pass information on to her brother. In both cases, she protects herself by showcasing selfish aspects of her personality, a skill the Dauntless have taught her. Her final fear simulations are a different story, however. In each scenario during her test, she escapes by using her Divergent thinking – that is, by refusing to accept death or follow orders. She doesn’t allow herself to drown in the glass box, burn at the stake, or murder her family in order to appease Jeanine. Instead, she uses creativity and compassion to manipulate the simulations and eventually escape them.
Though Tris has slowly become comfortable displaying multiple elements of her personality, she’s still unsure about what it means to be Tobias’s girlfriend. Their near-sexual encounter during the simulation surprises her, since it reveals she’s more scared of intimacy than she realized. Until recently, Tris repressed her romantic feelings entirely, and her fear of sex was traumatically exacerbated during Peter and Drew’s attack. In her final simulation, she’s forced to directly confront her anxiety in relation to her new relationship with Tobias. A teenager raised in the sheltered world of Abnegation, Tris isn’t sure how to express her sexual impulses. Moreover, she’s two years younger than Tobias, making her fear he’ll want to have sex before she’s ready. In the simulation, she faces that fear head on, taking control of her mind and body by telling a simulated Tobias she’s not willing to sleep with him.