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When Tris returns from a shower, she finds the word “Stiff” spray painted all over her bed and suspects that Peter is the culprit. Al helps her strip the bed, and as they walk to training, he tells her he doesn’t want to hurt anyone else. Tris learns she’s been assigned to fight Peter, and although Al suggests giving up early, she decides to fight in hopes of placing high in the rankings. But Peter beats her easily, pummeling her until she goes unconscious. Before she passes out, she notices Four leaving the room.
Tris wakes up sore and dizzy in the nurses’ station with Will, Al, and Christina looking over her. After joking with Tris to cheer her up, Will and Christina leave for dinner. Al tells Tris they need to leave early the next morning for a field trip to the fence, and they talk about the day’s fights and each other’s bravery. She suspects Al is attracted to her, but she finds him too sensitive. After he leaves, she prepares herself for the possibility that her parents are too angry with her to attend the upcoming Visiting Day. In the middle of the night, she leaves the hospital and returns to the dorm.
Tris awakens to Christina shaking her. She is slow because of her injuries, so she and Christina barely make it to the train in time for the field trip. Al has to help her into the train car after she jumps, and she’s embarrassed that Peter can see she’s hurt. She notices Four standing at the train door and realizes she’s been looking at him frequently. The train stops, and they get out near a fence topped by barbed wire and patrolled by armed guards. Four explains that low-ranked Dauntless initiates usually become fence guards, making Tris worry that she’ll be stuck patrolling the fence or, worse, fail initiation entirely. Four reveals that he was ranked first in his cohort but chose not to take a government job, making Tris wonder why he would choose a lowly task like training initiates.
An apple truck approaches the gate, and Tris sees her friend Robert, an Amity transfer, riding in the back of it. He notices her injuries and tells her she could go home to Abnegation if she wanted, but she refuses. As the truck leaves, Tris notices the gate locks from the inside, making it seem like they’re locked in. After he sees her talk with Robert, Four chastises Tris for making unwise decisions, and implies he left her fight early because he didn’t like seeing her get hurt.
Late that night, a group bursts into the dorm and tells the initiates to get dressed and meet at the train tracks. On the train, Eric and Four divide the initiates into two teams to play capture the flag, a Dauntless tradition. Four chooses small, fast trainees like Tris, Christina, and Will, while Eric chooses the bigger initiates, including Al. Four’s group heads across a bridge to Navy Pier, where they find an abandoned Ferris wheel, empty buildings, and an old carousel. As the others argue about whether to split up, Tris decides to climb the wheel so she can see the other team’s location. Four follows her up, and as they climb, she realizes that he’s afraid of heights. She’s impressed that he still climbs to the top, and her budding attraction to him intensifies. From their vantage point, they spot the other team. As they climb down, a bar Tris is holding breaks and she nearly falls. Luckily, Four climbs down quickly and turns the Ferris wheel on to bring her down safely.
When they return to the others, Tris takes charge of planning the attack and divides them into two groups to distract and ambush Eric’s team. Tris and Christina arrive at the flag first, and Tris is taken aback when Christina tells Tris she’s already the hero, so she shouldn’t take the flag. Despite her misgivings, Tris lets Christina take it. The rest of the team is impressed by Tris’ actions, and they playfully squirt each other with paintballs on the ride home.
This section shows Tris using mental toughness to compensate for the fact that she’s small and relatively weak. She knows she isn’t the strongest contender, and this fact makes her nervous and insecure throughout the physical portion of the tests. Though she is desperate not to be ranked last, she knows doesn’t have the skills or strength to best Peter in a one-on-one fight. Still, even after Al advises her to give up early during the match, she refuses to take the easy way out, doing her best to appear tough even though she’s doomed to lose. Even after Peter beats her up badly, her priority is to appear strong: she leaves the hospital in the middle of the night so Peter can’t say he put her there overnight. Her bruises may be visible, but she doesn’t want anyone think she’s afraid, since it could mean losing her place in the faction.
In addition to fighting each other in public, the initiates are forced to interact constantly in the dormitory. Tris compares it unfavorably to her room at home, where she slept alone. The dorm is a shared space, so it exacerbates and magnifies conflicts that start elsewhere. It also places everyone’s bodies and behavior under scrutiny. At one point, Tris finds that Peter has spray painted the word “Stiff” all over her bed, violating both her dignity and her privacy. Events in later chapters will confirm that the dorm isn’t safe, and that name-calling isn’t Peter’s only mode of attack.
The game of capture the flag gives Tris a chance to show her true strengths. By climbing the Ferris wheel, she doesn’t just appear fearless: she also gains a real tactical advantage over the other team. She’s unafraid to act independently and to demonstrate leadership in a group that includes both transfers and those born into the faction. When the others look to her for direction, she devises a plan quickly and executes it confidently. And although Tris is upset that Christina wants to take the flag at the moment of victory, her deference to her friend shows that she is willing to share her accomplishments, a classic Abnegation trait. In fact, while Peter, Molly, and Drew constantly call her “Stiff” as an insult, Tris will often find that the instincts she learned in her home faction are advantageous during Dauntless training.
Tris’s insecurity makes it difficult for her to accurately interpret the motivation behind others’ actions. She is given to intense self-doubt and mood swings, especially concerning Four’s feelings for her. When he leaves her fight early, she convinces herself it’s because she performed poorly. When he and Eric choose capture the flag teams, she thinks Four only picks her so he can blame her if they lose. And as he scrambles down the Ferris wheel while she hangs on for dear life, she fears he’s left her to fall. All these assumptions prove to be wrong, suggesting that her fear of failure sometimes blinds her to reality.
During the Ferris wheel scene, Tris and Four’s previous brief interactions expand into a full-blown flirtation. As they climb up the wheel, Tris realizes she has one advantage over the Four: he’s afraid of heights, and she isn’t. The realization helps her feel slightly more comfortable with him, but it also impresses her. During the fights, when Eric refused to allow concessions, Four argued that acknowledging the strength of others is a form of bravery. Unlike Eric, an unapologetic bully, Four shows courage by acknowledging Tris’s strength and confronting his fear of heights head-on. The danger and exhilaration of the expedition puts them in close physical contact, as well. Tris doesn’t quite know how to acknowledge her excitement at their growing closeness, and often focuses on her physical reactions. She finds herself unable to breathe or notices her heart pounding, but doesn’t say why.
Tris’s interactions with Four stand in strong contrast to her friendship with Al, who she has begun to see as weak. Whereas Four is fully immersed in the Dauntless lifestyle, Al refuses to fight and cries every night. Additionally, rather than accompanying Tris on daring missions, he’s part of routine moments like changing her sheets and walking with her to meals and training sessions. Compared to Four, who both excites and scares Tris, Al seems meek and insecure.