Al’s suicide is evidence that Dauntless is a dangerous, pressure-filled, and even fatal environment. It is a miniature dystopia within the broader society. Every year an initiate commits suicide in the chasm, and the Dauntless leaders perversely use the tragic event as a morale builder. Eric celebrates Al’s suicide as an act of “courage,” essentially encouraging the initiates to root for each other to die during the competition. Its warped priorities become even clearer when we learn that the compound has a surveillance system in place. As Tris loudly criticizes Eric’s rhetoric after Al’s funeral, Four warns her that she’s being watched. Though he doesn’t give Tris any details about the nature or extent of the surveillance, he clearly knows more about the system than he’s letting on, suggesting that Dauntless leaders may be spying on faction members, especially those who may cause trouble.
As the first-person narrator, Tris constantly tells readers what she’s thinking, and her thoughts reveal that she’s often stubbornly insistent on appearing brave. She decides not to report Peter, Al, and Drew’s attack on her, just as she and Christina opted not to tell anyone their suspicion that Peter stabbed Edward. This time, Tris has a personal stake in keeping quiet. She assumes that the violent Dauntless leaders wouldn’t punish Peter, and she’s also convinced that tattling on him will make her seem afraid. Her assumption may be correct, but it’s also short-sighted and even somewhat selfish. Readers are left to wonder if Peter will go on to attack Tris’s friends and eventually kill someone.
Tris’s internal struggles become more pronounced during this section, revealing that she constantly wrestles with whether to be kind or harsh. When Christina apologizes for her competitiveness during capture the flag, Tris decides to embrace her Abnegation instincts and let go of her anger. She doesn’t feel comfortable holding grudges, and Christina has usually supported her like a good friend should. By contrast, when Al tearfully asks Tris to forgive him for taking part in Peter’s attack, Tris refuses to accept his apology and calls him a coward. Tris is willing to forgive Christina for her minor transgression since most of the time, her friend actually stands up for her, as when she confronts an Erudite transfer who insults Tris’s old faction. Al is a different story. He resented Tris’s success so much that he was willing to completely shatter their friendship, and she can’t bring herself to forgive him. Still, even this response feels unnatural to her. After Al kills himself, Tris wonders whether forgiving him could have saved his life and fears she did the wrong thing. This is one of many signals that she’s not entirely comfortable with the harsh instincts that Dauntless brings out in her.
As Tris begins to realize she has feelings for Four, she’s afraid of seeming weak in his presence. For example, she doesn’t want to take his advice to act vulnerable after Peter’s attack, and when he asks how she’s feeling the next morning, she tells him she’s fine even though she’s in pain. Although she has tried to appear fearless since the beginning of initiation, her lies to Four are motivated by her attraction to him, not just her desire to succeed in Dauntless. Her impulse to hide her weaknesses from him becomes even stronger after Al’s death, when Four observes that fear motivates her to act instead of paralyzing her. It’s increasingly obvious that Four likes Tris, too, and she desperately wants to prove that she deserves his praise. At the same time, because Four is technically her supervisor, she remains eager to impress him so she’ll do well in the rankings.