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Beatrice arrives home five minutes early and waits for Caleb to return. She thinks about how all the houses in Abnegation are the same to prevent vanity, pride, and envy among faction members. When Caleb arrives with their friends Robert and Susan, Beatrice lies about her early return, saying the test made her sick. Though Caleb doesn’t believe her, she tells him she can’t discuss what happened. After the others leave, the siblings cook dinner together, and Beatrice feels irritated with Caleb’s natural unselfishness.
Their parents arrive home, and as the family sits down to eat, their mother mentions she heard there was a problem with one aptitude test. Meanwhile, their father, a politician, is angry about Erudite’s accusations against his colleague, a fellow Abnegation leader named Marcus. Jeanine, the Erudite representative, has released a report saying Marcus’ son, Tobias, left Abnegation for Dauntless because Marcus was violent and cruel. Beatrice’s father refuses to believe the report. He sees Marcus’s son’s departure as a betrayal, and thinks the Erudite are seeking power for themselves. On their way to bed, Caleb surprises Beatrice by telling her they need to think about themselves when they choose a faction, not just their families. She notices a stack of books on his desk and wishes she could ask him for help with her decision.
Beatrice and her family arrive at the Hub for the Choosing Ceremony. After giving up their space in the elevator to make room for others, they climb twenty flights of stairs to the ceremony room. All the sixteen-year-olds stand in a large circle, inside of which sits a ring of chairs for family members. In the center are five large metal bowls containing substances representing each faction: stones for Abnegation, water for Erudite, earth for Amity, coals for Dauntless, and glass for Candor.
Beatrice knows her father expects both children to stay in Abnegation, and is surprised when her mother says she’ll love her no matter what she chooses. Then Marcus gives a speech explaining the “democratic philosophy” that underpins the factions. The divisions are meant to eradicate evil human impulses, including ignorance, duplicity, and selfishness, and the system has led to years of peaceful civilization. The initiates’ names are called in reverse alphabetical order. When called, each person cuts his or her hand with a knife and sprinkles blood into the bowl representing their chosen faction. Beatrice and the other Abnegation members are shocked when Caleb chooses Erudite, since the two factions have become enemies. Feeling obligated to her family, Beatrice nearly chooses her home faction, but after a few agonizing moments, she picks Dauntless.
Beatrice leaves the Hub with the other Dauntless initiates. On her way out, she sneaks a look at her parents. Her father is upset, but her mother is smiling. In contrast to her quiet ascent with the Abnegation faction, she and her fellow initiates run loudly down the stairs. She enjoys the feeling of freedom and is exhilarated as she jumps onto a train for the first time. After another initiate helps pull her in, she sees a boy who didn’t make it onto the train recede into the distance. The girl who helped Beatrice into the train introduces herself as Christina, a Candor transfer.
When the train arrives at Dauntless headquarters, the initiates jump onto its roof. Beatrice, Christina, and several others make it safely, but one girl falls to her death. A Dauntless leader named Max tells them to jump into the compound entrance at the center of the building, a giant hole seven stories deep. Irked by the taunts of a Candor boy named Peter, Beatrice decides to jump first. She takes off her outer shirt, revealing skin for the first time, and throws it at Peter. She jumps, and after a long fall, lands heavily in a net. A young man with dark blue eyes helps her onto a platform. He and another Dauntless girl, Lauren, are impressed that the first jumper is from Abnegation. Feeling like her name doesn’t fit her new faction, she tells them her name is Tris. She learns that the boy’s name is Four, and he welcomes her to Dauntless.
In these chapters, readers are given a clearer sense of daily life in Abnegation. The faction doesn’t just prioritize humility, it demands it. All of its social norms and requirements – identical houses, simple clothing and hairstyles, limitations on public affection – force people to downplay their individual needs and desires on behalf of the collective good. The faction also plays a central role in the political system. Beatrice’s fictional society assumes that the selfless members of Abnegation make the best political leaders. However, Beatrice’s father reveals that this arrangement has begun to cause tension. Specifically, the Erudite feel that their intelligence is a valuable political asset and have begun attacking the council, which is composed entirely of Abnegation members. These troubling details foreshadow worsening problems between the factions.
Marcus’s speech at the Choosing Ceremony reveals more about the historical rationale for the factions. Decades ago, social leaders decided that war was caused by evils within the human personality, not external forces. This led them to attempt to eliminate the human traits that caused violence. It’s notable that his speech focuses on the desire to eliminate bad traits rather than cultivate good ones. He goes on to say that the arrangement created pools of talent for different occupations, but he doesn’t acknowledge the system’s obvious downsides. The factions separate people into rigid categories, forcing each to cultivate a single virtue at the expense of all others. And even though the factions have lived in peace for decades, their separation invites competition and distrust. The negative reports Erudite has been releasing about Abnegation foreshadow the breakdown of the system amidst worsening faction relationships.
Because Beatrice tells the story in first person, readers experience her inner turmoil firsthand. She is clearly unsure of her proper place both within her family and in society as a whole. As she describes Abnegation, we learn that she respects her faction and finds comfort in its rituals and routines. However, she increasingly chafes at its restrictions. Her sense of alienation will lead her to join the Dauntless faction, in many ways Abnegation’s opposite.
Beatrice is especially sensitive to the personality gap between herself and her brother, Caleb. She considers him a model Abnegation citizen and resents his natural unselfishness. Even though they are in the same grade, he is slightly older, and he acts like an elder sibling. He rebukes Beatrice when she speaks out of turn at dinner, and later he gives her advice about the Choosing Ceremony. Her surprise at Caleb’s decision to switch to Erudite reveals that she isn’t an entirely reliable narrator. Her conclusions about others are often influenced by her own self-concern. For example, the stack of books on Caleb’s desk might have alerted her to Caleb’s Erudite aspirations, but she’s so anxious about her own choice that she doesn’t think about what the books might mean.
The Choosing Ceremony forces Beatrice to confront her conflicted feelings head on, and her desire to break free wins out. She feels guilty about leaving her family, especially since Caleb has also chosen a new faction, but she has convinced herself she is too selfish to stay in Abnegation. As she cuts her hand and drips blood over the coals, she observes, “I am selfish. I am brave.” The statement suggests she can’t imagine being both brave and unselfish. Indeed, the inflexible social order has made choosing a new faction a traumatic experience. Unlike in contemporary American society, in the novel, adolescence means physically leaving one’s family and beginning an entirely new life.
The opening scenes of the Dauntless initiation show Beatrice giving free reign to her adventurous impulses. Even though she is nervous and inexperienced, she isn’t timid. She immediately jumps on the train along with the other initiates, and she’s the first to leap seven stories down into the Dauntless compound, earning her the nickname “first jumper.” Indeed, initiation provides her with the opportunity to create a new identity. When Four asks her name, she shortens it to “Tris.” The change reveals that despite her newfound independence, she’s still vulnerable to social pressure. Although she has joined Dauntless because it best represents her individual self, she chooses a name that conforms to the norms of her new faction. Her desire to appear brave in front of others, especially those who question her abilities, will surface repeatedly throughout the book.