Analysis: Chapters 34 – 36

After Tris and Tobias are brought to Jeanine’s headquarters, the full extent of Erudite’s plans is finally revealed. Jeanine’s vendetta against Tris isn’t personal, it’s part of what she considers a necessary effort to remove Abnegation from power. Tris observes that Jeanine is incredibly smart, not sadistic, and she sees the Erudite takeover as the best solution to bad governance by people who are forcing their self-denial on others. Although her actions are cruel, Tris observes that Jeanine is “more machine than maniac.” She follows a logical plan, and mass violence is simply part of her strategy to see that plan through.

It’s no coincidence that Jeanine tries to execute Tris using a glass box like the one in Tris’s fear simulations. The fact that a camera is pointed at Tris as the box fills with water shows that Jeanine sees Tris’s death less as punishment than as a science experiment. It is an opportunity to learn from Tris’s behavior. She still doesn’t fully understand Divergent capabilities, or why so many people from Abnegation wind up Divergent, and this lack of knowledge keeps her from total power over them. Recording Tris as she drowns is a chance to remedy this lack. It allows Jeanine to see how a Divergent person reacts when faced with real, not simulated, death.

Thinking she’s about to die, Tris allows her mind to wander freely, and her thoughts surprise her by reflecting her Abnegation upbringing. God pops into her mind even though she rarely thinks about religion, and we’re reminded that religion is specifically an Abnegation value. Earlier, Tris noted that her father thanks God at dinner, and Tobias, who we now know was also from Abnegation, had the words “Fear God Alone” painted on his dorm wall. The motto suggested he was trying to translate his home faction’s values into Dauntless terminology and behavior. Now, facing death causes Tris to do something similar. She thinks about what kind of person she is and what might happen to her after she dies. She’s especially grateful she doesn’t have killing Eric on her conscience, and though she doesn’t say so explicitly, it’s clear she’s worried that God will judge her in the afterlife.

Tris’s memory of her baptism foreshadows her last-minute rescue by her mother. During their brief reunion, Tris learns that her mother has been Divergent all along. She’s also been looking out for her daughter, even though Tris “abandoned” her family and home faction. Her mother says she doesn’t care about the factions, and her rescue of Tris proves her point. She rejects the motto “Faction before blood” by insisting that familial love transcends social boundaries. Her last words to Tris are “Be brave, Beatrice. I love you.” With these words, she’s advocating both Dauntless behavior and Abnegation values. The statement is bittersweet, since she is shot to death by Dauntless soldiers immediately afterward. By combining Dauntless bravery with Abnegation sacrifice, she shows Beatrice that even though faction divisions aren’t totally meaningless, they are secondary to the bond between family members.

Faction corruption crops up again when Tris reunites with her remaining family members. As she joins her father and Caleb in the hideout, readers get hints that trouble is brewing within Abnegation, not just Dauntless and Erudite. At first, Tris assumed Erudite’s reports accusing Abnegation’s leaders of corruption were false, especially after they published Molly’s fabricated rumors about Tris’s father. However, she also learned that the reports of Marcus’s abusive behavior were correct, forcing her to wonder whether there is truth to the other attacks, as well. Marcus’s strange behavior toward Tris in the hideout further raises her suspicions about Abnegation’s leadership. On the surface, Marcus is all concern, but Tris finds his actions suspect. In particular, she gets the sense that he knows more than he lets on when she explains that Erudite is responsible for the war.