Summary: Chapter 37

Tris, Caleb, their father, and Marcus jump on a train headed toward Dauntless headquarters. Marcus assumes Tris regrets joining Dauntless, but Tris retorts that the faction taught her how to be selfless. When they arrive, Tris shows the others how to jump off the train and then into the giant Pit entrance. Down in the Pit, a guard begins shooting at them. Tris realizes it’s Peter and that he’s not in the trance. She overpowers him and shoots him in the arm, and he agrees to lead them to the computers.

Tris’ father is disturbed by her brutality, but he doesn’t protest when she shoots several other guards on her way up to the top floor. At first the others follow her, but she orders Caleb and Marcus to stay with Peter while she heads to the control room with her father. They take an elevator to the top of the Pit. As the elevator doors open, her father shoots two guards. He then runs down the hallway to distract and kill the remaining soldiers and is killed in the process. Tris leaves him and runs to the end of the hallway, where she finds Tobias at the controls of a simulation room filled with monitors.

Summary: Chapter 38

Tobias, looking confused, aims his gun at Tris and orders her to drop her weapon. She obeys, then runs at him and narrowly dodges the shot he fires at her. They fall to floor and wrestle for his weapon. Tobias punches her and slams her into a wall, but Tris eventually retrieves the gun. She doesn’t want to kill him and pleads with him to recognize her. When that fails, remembering the lessons she has learned about bravery and selflessness, she hands the gun to him. He presses the gun to her forehead and she places her hand on his chest.

Summary: Chapter 39

Tobias doesn’t immediately shoot, so Tris embraces him. He drops the gun and comes out of the trance, and they kiss tearfully. As they watch the monitors, wondering how the program is able to control so many people, they spot Dauntless soldiers surrounding Caleb, Marcus, and Peter. Tobias stops the computer program just in time to save them. On the screens, they watch Dauntless across the city awaken from their trances and begin screaming, fighting, and shooting at one another.

They leave the control room and take the computer’s hard drive with them. Tris sees her father’s body in the hallway and vomits. They take the elevator down to the ground level, where Tobias is forced to reunite with his father. Tris harshly warns Marcus to stay away, then apologizes to Tobias, who says she has nothing to be sorry for. Now that she has time to think, she’s worried about her friends, and particularly concerned about what will happen when Christina discovers she killed Will.

They all take a train out of the city toward Amity headquarters, although Tris is uncomfortable that Marcus and Peter are still with them. On the train, Tobias tells Tris he loves her, and they kiss. As Marcus watches the hard drive in Tris’ hands, making her uneasy, she realizes they’ve all become factionless and wonders what will happen next.

Analysis: Chapters 37–39

During the book’s climax, Tris fully melds the two main impulses that have defined her throughout the novel. In multiple situations, she opts for a course of action that requires both generosity and courage. The start of war is the ultimate test of her character, and even in a brutally violent environment, selflessness has become her automatic response. After she decides to find the control room, she briefly wonders why she didn’t hesitate to undertake what she knows is essentially a suicide mission. She has questioned her own actions and the actions of those around her throughout the book. Even when she can’t answer these questions, she doesn’t stew with indecision or doubt. A strong protagonist, she takes action rather than dwelling on her worries and fears.

Tris’s father and Marcus think all Dauntless members are reckless, but Tris challenges them by saying the faction taught her to be both selfless and brave. As they move through the Pit, Tris’s father comes to realize that her statement isn’t a paradox. Though he questions her callousness at first, he quickly learns that the current situation requires rethinking Abnegation’s strict values and even adopting some Dauntless ones. Indeed, Tris’s ability to juggle her Dauntless and Abnegation traits is ultimately what saves her, Caleb, and Tobias. As she leads her family and Marcus through the Pit, she’s primarily concerned with their safety, and though she doesn’t commit to nonviolence, she tries to inflict less harm than Dauntless usually do. She could easily kill Peter, but she wounds him in the arm instead. Just as Tris’s mother showed that violence can be used for selfless purposes, her father learns the same lesson in time to sacrifice his life and save his daughter’s.

As Tris confronts Tobias in the control room, she wonders if she can be forgiven for everything she has had to do up to this point. Like her earlier thoughts about God while she was trapped in the glass tank, the question suggests that she continues to struggle with her actions. She’s grown increasingly aware that both she and life itself are more complex than the factions acknowledge. Her desires and motives differ from one moment to the next, and the problems she encounters sometimes seem to require selfish and violent solutions. But she becomes hyper-aware of the problem with this view when Marcus observes that pain sometimes serves a greater good. Though Tris doesn’t necessarily disagree, Marcus has clearly used this idea to justify his own abusive behavior toward his son, and potentially for other nefarious purposes. Although Tris never explicitly mentions an afterlife, she wants her actions to reflect well on her after she dies, and selflessness always makes her feel more righteous than violence does. When she offers to sacrifice her life instead of killing Tobias in the control room, she makes a conscious choice to embrace her Abnegation values over her Dauntless ones.

As Tris and Tobias depart Abnegation, possibly forever, she takes another step toward adulthood. Over the course of a single night, she has nearly died multiple times, as well as lost both her parents and become factionless. She left her parents behind by choice when she switched factions, but now that they’re gone for good, she and Caleb will truly have to grow up on their own. As they head toward the Amity faction, Tobias tells Tris he loves her, suggesting that now that her parents are gone, her main emotional support will be her romantic relationship with Tobias. The ending hints that Tris is about learn more about who she is beyond “Tris, the selfless, or Tris, the brave,” a cliffhanger that paves the way for the next book in the series.