Summary: Chapter 16

Tris returns to the dormitory to find Al avoiding his family. He’s ashamed of his bad performance in training, and says he joined Dauntless because he thought courage meant standing up for people, not hurting them. Telling Tris she makes him feel braver, he puts his arm around her, but she moves away. At dinner, the initiates talk about the next day’s rankings and their aptitude test results. Tris tells them she didn’t kill the dog in her test and got Abnegation as a result. Back at the dormitory, Four explains the ranking process and reveals everyone’s placements. Out of the nine initiates, Tris has placed sixth, higher than she expected. Peter is second and Al is eighth. Molly has placed fifth due to her loss to Tris, so she threatens her with payback.

Back in bed, Tris wonders why her mother left Dauntless and why she wants Caleb to research the simulation serum. Suddenly someone screams, and when the lights are turned on, Edward, who was ranked first, has a butter knife sticking out of his eye. As Tris calms him, she notices Peter and Drew are missing. She and Christina agree that Peter did it, but they decide it’s no use telling anyone. They have the next day off, and Tris and Will discuss faction values before going to the cafeteria. When they return, Edward and Myra have both quit initiation, saving Al from being cut.

Summary: Chapter 17

The next day, Tris avoids the dorm, observing that it still smells like blood even though she scrubbed it clean herself. A group of Dauntless-born initiates walks by, including a boy named Uriah who was on her capture the flag team. He invites her to come along on an initiation ritual, and she agrees, flattered and excited to hear the activity will be dangerous. They jump onto a train, and Tris is disappointed to learn that Four won’t be coming. A girl named Shauna tells Tris that when she and Four were initiates, Four taught her how to fight while everyone else was asleep, making Tris jealous.

They jump off the train and walk down Michigan Avenue to the Hancock building. They take the elevator to the 100th floor and climb to the roof. Tris is both terrified and excited to see that the initiation consists of getting into a body harness and zip lining down a cable. She loves it, and a Dauntless-born initiate named Shauna says they can’t call her “Stiff” anymore. She tries to downplay the experience when she returns to her other friends, but Christina seems resentful.

Summary: Chapter 18

The transfers and Dauntless-born wait in a dark hallway to begin the second stage of training. Uriah, whose older brother Zeke was initiated several years ago, comments that no one can prepare for stage two. Four calls Tris’s name and explains she’s about to experience a simulation that will help her learn to control her fears. He’ll be injecting her with a serum that will create a hallucination, and her responses to it will be transmitted to a computer.

After Four injects Tris, she is transported to a field where a giant flock of crows attacks her. As the birds peck at her body, she swats at them to no avail. She remembers that she can only leave the hallucination by calming down, so she forces herself to lie down and relax. As the pain becomes overwhelming, she awakens in tears. She doesn’t want the others to see her, so Four walks her out the back. Although she feels like a failure, Four tells her she got out of the hallucination three times faster than anyone else. Tris admits she didn’t think initiation would be so difficult, and he reveals that six years ago, the Dauntless made their training methods more brutal. After the change, Four refused the leadership position he was offered and Eric took it instead.

Analysis: Chapters 16–18

In Divergent, society as a whole is obsessed with categories. The government divides people into factions and forces them to conform to strict standards in every aspect of their lives. In Dauntless, these categories are further broken down into hierarchies. In Abnegation, Tris’s old faction, no one was allowed to stand out, express pride, or take individual credit for accomplishments. Even though the faction had leaders like Tris’s father, they were part of a council that made decisions collectively. In Dauntless, by contrast, members must constantly fight for supremacy, especially at the initiation stage. The training process creates an oppressive atmosphere of competition between trainees by threatening them with expulsion if they fail. Rather than encouraging friendship, it turns them into enemies bent on forcing each other out of the faction.

Even though Dauntless training encourages initiates to look out for themselves, friendships and cliques have formed. Peter, Drew, and Molly, a group of friends from Candor, share a sense of merciless brutality. Ironically, though they’re from the honest faction, they’re willing to lie and sabotage their competitors in order to secure their places in Dauntless. Peter is particularly brutal, and he gets away with maiming Edward because Tris and Christina assume that Dauntless approves of his tactics. By contrast, Tris and her friends are more nuanced characters. They have complicated feelings about the training and ranking process. Their complicated feelings make them more sympathetic than the Candor trio. Al can’t bring himself to hurt anyone even though he’s afraid to be kicked out of the faction. Will is doing well enough, but he’s struggling with his loyalty to Erudite, since its leaders are releasing reports attacking his new friend Tris’s faction. Christina cares about Tris, but she’s also jealous when Tris gets singled out by the Dauntless-born trainees.

A clear divide exists between initiates who were born in Dauntless and those who transferred in from other factions. Prior to this section, the two groups have been separated, but in these chapters they interact both formally and informally. Tris’s outing with Uriah and the other Dauntless-born initiates highlights the differences between these experienced trainees and their transfer counterparts. Having grown up Dauntless, they’re much more comfortable taking risks than the “new” kids, and most have insider knowledge of the process. Some, like Uriah, have the benefit of learning from their older siblings’ experiences, while others are simply used to climbing great heights and acting like daredevils. When Uriah invites Tris to come along on their special outing, she feels special, like they’ve welcomed her into the popular crowd. Moreover, their gleeful zip lining reminds Tris of the aspects of Dauntless that made her join in the first place: the camaraderie, the sense of fun and adventure, and the chance to push boundaries without hurting anyone.

Fun is hard to come by in Dauntless, especially during the second phase of training, which is focused on exploiting the trainees’ fears. Four explains to Tris the complicated process by which the computer measures each trainee’s fear level and coping skills. When these details are combined with Tori’s earlier explanation of the aptitude test, readers begin to realize that the government has developed multiple technologies for social control without the knowledge of most faction members. This secrecy is troubling, since it means that almost no one knows about the computer programs – much less what they actually do – until the moment they’re subjected to them. By creating hallucinations that induce fears which are then monitored, the tests are supposedly teaching the trainees how to overcome their fears. But both the aptitude test and the fear simulation are traumatic experiences for Tris and the other trainees. The intense emotional reactions these simulations cause suggest that government leaders want to make the Dauntless afraid to question authority. The information these tests provide is easy to exploit, and it seems likely that Dauntless or some other authority is planning to use them for nefarious purposes.