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.