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Four and Lauren separate the initiates into two groups. Those who were born in the Dauntless faction go with Lauren, and the nine transfers stay with Four. He introduces himself as their instructor, and when Christina mocks his name, he tells her to keep her mouth shut. He then leads them into the Pit, a huge underground cavern. Tris can see people all over, as well as narrow paths connecting living and supply areas. Next, Four shows them the chasm, a ravine with a dangerous river flowing through one side of the Pit. Then they enter the dining hall, where the other Dauntless applaud them. Tris sits with Christina and Four, who laugh at her when she says she’s never seen hamburgers before. They’re joined by Eric, a heavily pierced, arrogant Dauntless leader who transferred from Erudite. He asks Four questions that make him uncomfortable, and Tris wonders about their relationship.
Shortly after dinner, Eric shocks the transfers by telling them they will be ranked throughout their training. Only the top ten initiates will join Dauntless, and the rest will become factionless. The other initiates are terrified, but Tris resolves to make it through training. In bed that night, she feels homesick, but she keeps her crying quiet. In the bunk next to her, a large boy named Al annoys her with his audible sobs.
On the first day of training, the initiates learn the process will be divided into three stages that will test their physical, emotional, and mental strength. Four explains that he’ll be teaching the initiates how to shoot a gun and win a fight. Though Tris is initially unable to shoot the target, she learns quickly and enjoys the sense of control the gun gives her. At lunch, an Erudite boy named Will joins her and Christina, explaining that he doesn’t get along with everyone in his faction. Tris is uncomfortable when she sees two other trainees named Edward and Myra kissing, and the others tease her for being prudish.
After lunch, the initiates practice attacking punching bags. Four puts his hand on Tris’s stomach as he gives her advice, making her nervous. At dinner, Al announces he wants to get a tattoo. Tris and Christina decide to join him, but first Christina outfits Tris in a tighter dress and eye makeup, giving her a striking new look. When they arrive at the tattoo parlor, Tris is surprised to find Tori, her test administrator, working there. She wants to talk about her aptitude test results, but Tori refuses. Tris decides to have three flying birds tattooed on her collarbone to represent her family.
Tris and Christina discuss the other initiates while they prepare to fight in pairs in the center of the room. Tris realizes Christina has become a closer friend than anyone in her old faction. Christina reveals that she hates Peter, Drew, and Molly, a trio of inseparable Candor initiates she’s known since childhood, and calls Peter “pure evil.” As Al and Will hesitate to begin their fight, Four says they are allowed to concede, while Eric insists that each pair must battle until someone is unable to continue. Al eventually knocks Will out with a hard punch and is disturbed by his own brutality. Next, Molly punches and kicks Christina hard enough to make her bleed, and Christina, sobbing, concedes. Eric, angry at Christina, brings everyone to the Pit. He forces Christina to hang over the railing of the chasm for five minutes to prove she’s not a coward. As she begins to slip, Tris and Al encourage her to hang on. At the end of five minutes, they help pull her back to safety.
Tris is both the protagonist in a coming-of-age novel, or bildungsroman, and the heroine of a dystopian narrative. Throughout the book, these two genres interweave to give readers a fuller picture of the forces against which Tris will eventually struggle. On the dystopian side, readers get an impression that the city is governed by authorities with a vested interest in total control over society. The Abnegation council governs all five factions, and Eric and Four are being guided by leaders inside Dauntless, suggesting there are several hierarchies in conflict. Tori’s refusal to talk with Tris about her test results confirms the sense that the results are connected to some larger, dangerous secret related to faction governance.
Another sign that this is a dystopia is the fact that Tris and her friends are forced to fight against one another. The teenagers in Dauntless are taught that shocking brutality is the only way to survive, a telltale sign of a society whose priorities are terribly warped. Roth graphically describes the injuries they inflict on each other in order to emphasize Dauntless’ brutal goals. Thanks to Eric’s leadership, bravery in Dauntless has come to mean ruthlessness. This creates conflict between Eric and Four, two authority figures who Tris will come to see as representatives of Dauntless’ good and bad sides. While Four values fairness and moderation, Eric prizes brute force and domination. Their conflicting attitudes will cause Tris to question her own definition of bravery and her ability to achieve it. Her annoyance with Al, a large, strong initiate who nonetheless cries from stress and hates fighting, shows that Tris places a great deal of importance on the appearance of bravery, through concealing fear. And her hesitation to help Christina out of the chasm reveals that she desperately wants to fit in to the Dauntless world, even when she questions its methods.
At sixteen, Tris is on the cusp of adulthood, and her initiation into Dauntless is a metaphor for her transition away from childhood. She has left her parents behind and is completely immersed in the world of her peers – a scenario that many young adults simultaneously crave and fear. She recalls that in Abnegation, she was never able to make her own choices. Now, outside of training, she has free time to explore her own interests. In this and other ways, she realizes her childhood experiences differ from those of her friends. She’s embarrassed by things that set her apart, including her clothing, hairstyle, and general appearance. These are things real teenagers worry about, giving Tris’ worries a sense of verisimilitude, or plausibility, for readers. The fact that the initiates will be ranked throughout their training also has parallels in the social hierarchies of high school. Those who pass a set of often arbitrary social “tests” become part of the group, and those who fail become outcasts.
Tris’s discomfort at the sight of Edward and Myra kissing is another indication that this is a coming-of-age story. Growing up in Abnegation, Tris learned to hide, downplay, and be ashamed of all her personal desires, including sexual ones. By age sixteen, most people have acknowledged their sexuality, but Tris has never had that that opportunity. Much like her Divergence, it’s something she doesn’t fully understand, and it scares her. Aside from her parents holding hands at the dinner table, she’s seen very little public affection throughout her life, so watching two young people kissing passionately in public is both troubling and exciting to her. Her conflicted feelings about intimacy will surface constantly throughout the book, especially as she gets to know Four. The fact that she becomes breathless at his touch during the kickboxing scene suggests she is developing a physical attraction to him.