Summary: Chapter 19

As Tris enters the dormitory, she sees everyone gathered around Peter, who is reading aloud from an Erudite newspaper article. The piece attacks Abnegation faction values and accuses Tris and Caleb’s father of wicked behavior. Molly has told a reporter that Tris talks in her sleep, revealing that her father did terrible things to her. Tris lunges at Peter and Molly, but Will drags her out of the room. He reminds her that Abnegation isn’t her faction anymore, and disagrees when she argues that Erudite wants to overthrow the government.

Next, Christina and Al appear and invite them along to the tattoo parlor. Tris and Christina get tattoos of the Dauntless seal, and she buys a shirt that allows her to show more skin than usual. They approach the chasm, where a drunken Four flirts with Tris. After their brief conversation, Al throws Tris protectively over his shoulder and they head to dinner.

Summary: Chapter 20

Tris’ fear simulations have been giving her nightmares and panic attacks, so she’s fearful as she begins her next test. She finds herself trapped in a glass box, with Four and the other initiates watching her. The box begins filling with water, and she hits the glass with her hands and shoulders. At first she can’t break out, but she calms down and tells herself the situation is in her head. She cracks the glass with her hand, and it shatters. When she wakes up, Four is perplexed. He takes her out into the hallway and tells her that her ability to manipulate the simulation shows she’s Divergent. He will delete the results, but he warns her to hide her abilities during future tests.

Tris seeks out Tori, who explains that all Divergent people seem to have this ability. Tori tells Tris that her brother could also manipulate the tests. When Divergent leaders discovered this, they killed him and made it look like he’d committed suicide. Tori doesn’t know why the Dauntless care about Divergents’ abilities, but she warns Tris to be careful.

Summary: Chapter 21

Erudite has published two more articles attacking Abnegation. The first accuses them of withholding goods, and the second argues that politicians shouldn’t be chosen from a single faction. Tris wanders the Pit, worrying about the propaganda and thinking about the fears she’s faced in her simulations. She chose Dauntless because she wanted to show a part of herself she’d always kept hidden. But the simulations are traumatic. She’s been chewing her nails in her sleep, and she fears the other initiates’ minds are breaking down.

Back at the dormitory, Eric reveals that Tris is now ranked first. Predictably, the news angers Peter, who threatens her. To her dismay, her transfer friends are also resentful - especially Al, who departs in tears after seeing he’s ranked last. Tris leaves and finds solace in her Dauntless-born friends. That night, as Tris gets a drink of water, she hears Eric and an unknown woman discussing how to find “Divergent rebels.” Suddenly, Tris is grabbed from behind and restrained. She realizes her three attackers include Peter and Al. They blindfold her and take her to the chasm, where they hang her over the railing and grope her chest. Just as Peter is about to drop her over the edge, Four rushes in and rescues her, and she passes out in his arms.

Analysis: Chapters 19–21

Outside the Dauntless compound, Erudite’s propaganda against Abnegation has reached a fever pitch, showing that the factions have become bitter enemies. Though the initiates are almost totally quarantined from the outside world, they do have access to these biased reports attacking Abnegation and its leaders. Worse, the Candor initiates seem to be in on the scheme. Molly has told a reporter blatant lies to make the Abnegation leaders, specifically Tris’ father, seem evil, and Peter is doing his best to spread the misinformation among the other initiates. Readers get an increasing sense that a conspiracy is in the works, and that Peter and the other Candor initiates are part of it.

Though Tris doesn’t fully grasp the significance of Erudite’s written attacks, we gather that they are somehow linked to Tris’s Divergence. Her mother told her that many Abnegation children receive “inconclusive” results during their aptitude tests – a coded hint that most Divergents come from Abnegation. Tori’s story about her brother shows Tris that both Erudite and Dauntless leaders feel threatened by Abnegation. More specifically, they’re concerned about people who are Divergent, since they can manipulate and quickly escape fear simulations. The conversation she overhears in the hallway reveals that Eric became a Dauntless leader so he could help sniff out people with this ability.

The fact that Tris is doing well in the rankings influences the male characters’ responses to her. Even though Four is harsh with Tris, he’s obviously impressed by her strong showing in the rankings. After she does well in stage one, he flirts openly with her, something she’s unconsciously desired since she first met him. He gives her advice about staying safe when he learns she’s Divergent, and later he rescues her from Peter, Drew, and Al’s attack. For Four, membership in Dauntless means behaving nobly, even though he doesn’t always know how to express his feelings. By contrast, the male initiates are openly angry when Tris is ranked first in the second stage, and they respond with violence. They can’t understand how a small, seemingly weak girl has beaten them. The fact that Peter, Al, and Drew attack Tris right after she overhears Eric’s sinister conversation emphasizes the fact that her Divergence puts her in danger, not just from Erudite or Dauntless authorities, but from her fellow initiates. And because it crosses the line into sexual assault, it emphasizes Tris’s already conflicted response to members of the opposite sex.

Al’s behavior leading up to the kidnapping shows his inability to embody noble or violent Dauntless ideas of masculinity. He’s embarrassed that Tris isn’t attracted to him, so he compensates by treating her like a weakling in need of protection. After he sees Four flirting with Tris, Al scoops her up, calls her “little girl,” and insists that he’s “rescuing” her. But when she surpasses him in the rankings, his hope of superiority evaporates. Desperation leads him to help Peter and Drew kidnap Tris and bring her to the chasm. Despite his earlier refusal to fight, he now thinks violence is the only way to secure his place in the faction. However, he tells Drew and Peter to stop groping Tris’s chest, and when Peter begins brutally beating her, Al abandons the scene instead of joining in. Not only is he unable to commit to violence, but he’s also too ashamed to help Tris after he’s betrayed his nonviolent values and their friendship.