Cheese or Knife CHOOSE NOW: Divergent Chapters 1 & 2

"Foreshadowing ahead!"

I’ve been waiting for this moment for ages you guys! The moment I don’t have to write a “previously on” opening to remind you of the shitty ongoings of previous, and often forgettable, chapters! Also, Divergent. 

It’s important I note that even though Beatrice doesn’t start going by Tris until a few chapters in, I’m just going to refer to her as Tris because I’m writing this blog post and that’s that. [Matthew says: And I did the opposite, because we’re professionals over here.]

Chapter 1

The very first paragraph marks my endless confusion about what the fuck is up with Tris’ faction Abnegation. If that sounded like garbled nonsense to you, please bear with us because Tris doesn’t clear up the whole factions issue for chapters. [Matthew says: I know “chapters” doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s a lot of time to read a book without understanding the only thing anyone ever talks about in it. The very first paragraph also marks my endless confusion about what is up with FACTIONS.]

“There is one mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.”

Since my initial read through of this book, my feelings about this have not changed. Despite the fact that this won’t become clear until a little later, the faction of Abnegation is all about being selfless and never thinking about yourself. If this sounds like the most tedious and painful existence, that’s exactly how it seems in the book.

Anyway, only being able to look at yourself in a mirror “on the second day of every third month” (which…what? Do they mark their calendars with “June 2: It’s hair cutting day!!!”) just doesn’t make sense. [Matthew says: It’s probably more like “It’s hair cutting day 🙁 “] If they want to limit the time they’re allowed to spend in front of a mirror, fine, but what if you have something caught in between your teeth? It’s not selfish of you to want to get something out of your teeth – in fact, if we’re going to get really picky about it, you’re probably going to gross out people around you if you don’t get it. You may ruin their day.

We utilize this time in front of the mirror for the tried and true trope of the narrator describing what they see in the mirror.

A lot can happen to a person’s appearance in three months. In my reflection, I see a narrow face, wide, round eyes, and a long, thin nose—I still look like a little girl, though sometime in the last few months I turned sixteen. The other factions celebrate birthdays, but we don’t. It would be self-indulgent.

If Abnegation did celebrate birthdays, I imagine their cake would just be a cement block with “Happy birthday” written on it sadly. Abnegation is the Eeyore of the factions.

"Eeyore thanks for noticing me"

[Matthew says: Between the “narrator describes what they see in the mirror” trope and the “confusion over who she really is” trope, I’m amazed Ariel didn’t go with this gif.]

Tris’ mom asks her if she’s nervous about the upcoming plot.

Today is the day of the aptitude test that will show me which of the five factions I belong in. And tomorrow, at the Choosing Ceremony, I will decide on a faction; I will decide the rest of my life; I will decide to stay with my family or abandon them.

Rule 1 of dystopian YA fiction: There must be a mysterious ceremony that sets off a chain of dramatic events for the protagonist.

We walk together to the kitchen. On these mornings when my brother makes breakfast, and my father’s hand skims my hair as he reads the newspaper, and my mother hums as she clears the table—it is on these mornings that I feel guiltiest for wanting to leave them.

In short, Abnegation is so boring that the only time Tris feels bad about wanting to leave them is on a semi-pleasantly boring morning.

After the most dull breakfast in the world, Tris and her brother Caleb head to school. Their bus ride is the perfect opportunity to introduce the faction Candor.

The Candor man wears a black suit with a white tie—Candor standard uniform. Their faction values honesty and sees the truth as black and white, so that is what they wear.

This is the moment where I knew this was definitely YA geared towards high school students who feel like they don’t belong to a clique. “I don’t dress like goths or preps or burnouts – WHO AM I??”

I guess Veronica Roth just didn’t know where to sit in the high school cafeteria, thus, Divergent was born.

Tris mentions that they pass by a building “that was once called the Sears Tower,” alerting to the fact that she is in Chicago, and there is a 50/50 chance she’ll run into Matthew’s family. [Matthew says: Possibly! It’s already the building that was once called the Sears Tower TODAY.]  I’m not sure what faction they’re in because they are too divergent for me to decide. [Matthew says: There are also already factions in Chicago that you’re born into and you could disgrace your family if you decide to leave one for the other! Although there are only two, and they’re Cubs fans and White Sox fans.]

She also mentions that only Dauntless ever ride trains, and I only mention this because it is the first of one million times this will come up. You’ve been warned.

At school, we learn that kids from all factions go to school together until they’re 16 and choose their factions, then they’re faction-schooled. We also continue to learn that everyone really hates Abnegation.

Then an Erudite boy in a blue sweater shoves me. I lose my balance and fall hard on the ground.
“Out of my way, Stiff,” he snaps, and continues down the hallway.

"Foreshadowing ahead!"

My cheeks warm. I get up and dust myself off. A few people stopped when I fell, but none of them offered to help me. Their eyes follow me to the edge of the hallway. This sort of thing has been happening to others in my faction for months now—the Erudite have been releasing antagonistic reports about Abnegation, and it has begun to affect the way we relate at school. The gray clothes, the plain hairstyle, and the unassuming demeanor of my faction are supposed to make it easier for me to forget myself, and easier for everyone else to forget me too. But now they make me a target.

Also ahead, the second mention of the Dauntless and fucking trains.

At exactly 7:25, the Dauntless prove their bravery by jumping from a moving train.

To answer your question, no that never stops being stupid, and to answer your follow up question, no they never stop doing this and it never stops being mentioned. [Matthew says: In case you’re confused about this, Chicago’s “subway” is actually above ground, on elevated rails about a story or so up! You guys are learning more about Chicago than you are about the basic premise of Divergent so far.]

My father calls the Dauntless “hellions.” They are pierced, tattooed, and black-clothed.

They are lazy depictions of what being “cool” and “alternative” look like. Did I mention that the owner of Hot Topic was also the founder of Dauntless? It was a really big boost for business.

Their primary purpose is to guard the fence that surrounds our city. From what, I don’t know.

This is never answered in this book, so don’t hold your breath. I’m assuming it’ll be addressed later on, but I’ve only just started the second book. I’m really hoping it’s zombies. Let’s just chuck as many popular tropes into this story as we possibly can. [Matthew says: This isn’t mentioned for another few chapters, but Tris explains that all of their food is canned now, and comes from far away. Except… nobody leaves the city? Because there’s a fence around it, protecting them from things far away? Can someone explain this to me? I’m more confused about how they get food in this book than anything else so far.]

Chapter 2

[Matthew says: In case you’re not sure how selfless Abnegation is yet, you’re goddamned going to:

[Our neighbor] offered to drive us [to school], but as Caleb says, we prefer to leave later and would not want to inconvenience him.
Of course not.

They’re so selfless they somehow cycled right back around to actually kinda selfish somehow.]

Tris observes the other factions before the aptitude test.

At the Abnegation table, we sit quietly and wait. Faction customs dictate even idle behavior and supersede individual preference. I doubt all the Erudite want to study all the time, or that every Candor enjoys a lively debate, but they can’t defy the norms of their factions any more than I can.

Imagine how hard it would be to be Candor on a day you’re feeling tired and just aren’t in the mood for a “lively debate”. Or if you agree on a topic, God forbid. Come on, Jimmy, you’re not lively debating hard enough over there, what kind of Candor do you think you are, boy? [Matthew says: Wait, if Candor see the truth in absolute terms, what do they debate about? Like… ever?]

A Dauntless woman named Tori conducts Tris’ aptitude test. Essentially Tris lays down in a chair and has electrodes attached to her forehead which allows Tori to see what’s going on. Somehow science has progressed enough in this book that you can see what’s going on in people’s brains. Guess it’s about that time to whip out all a whole assortment of our handy science gifs.

it's science

bill nye science


Anywho, the aptitude test consists of a few different scenarios in which Tris must make Decisions which determine what faction she belongs in.

1. Tris is in her school cafeteria.

On the table in front of me are two baskets. In one is a hunk of cheese, and in the other, a knife the length of my forearm.

Behind me, a woman’s voice says, “Choose.”

Step one of deciding the rest of your life = choosing between a knife and cheese. My very first note in this book: BUT HOW WILL YOU CUT THE CHEESE WITHOUT THE KNIFE? IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.

Oh how naive I was.

Tris doesn’t choose either the cheese or the knife because she is divergent as fuck and apparently doesn’t love cheese as much as most other humans. If you weren’t convinced of her divergent-ness before, I hope you can appreciate it now. [Matthew says: This is like the beginning of Kingdom Hearts, where you have to choose a sword, shield, or magic staff. Except this makes no sense, because it’s a knife and a piece of fucking cheese.]

2. But UH OH Tris needed the cheese or the knife in order to fend off a rabid dog because Stephen King suddenly took over the wheel of this book.

I understand that Cujo is meant to be terrifying, but I still think he’s adorable. And he used to be a gentle dog before the rabies 🙁

Tris thinks on her feet and acts submissive, and just like that the dog is like “Aw I love you!”

3. BUT UH OH AGAIN a little girl shows up out of nowhere.

I blink, and when my eyes open, a child stands across the room wearing a white dress. She stretches out both hands and squeals, “Puppy!”

No, little girl! Disappear back into the thin air from whence you came while you still can!

As she runs toward the dog at my side, I open my mouth to warn her, but I am too late. The dog turns. Instead of growling, it barks and snarls and snaps, and its muscles bunch up like coiled wire. About to pounce. I don’t think, I just jump; I hurl my body on top of the dog, wrapping my arms around its thick neck.

4. Tris is suddenly on a bus and a man reading a newspaper with the headline “Brutal Murderer Finally Apprehended” keeps getting in her face demanding to know if she knows this guy.

[Matthew says: This is about when I stopped taking this book seriously. It’s all well and good to have a symbolism-heavy scene like this, and it’s an understandable enough storytelling sin to get carried away and make the symbolism too intangible to really make much sense, but I’m less willing to forgive a scene told entirely in symbolism before we get any context for what it even could symbolize. We’ve yet to get an explanation of the strange new world the book is set in, but we’re already supposed to understand it metaphorically through this acid trip of dogs and knives and strangers reading newspapers and cheese. This would be like if, instead of Hagrid saying “Yer a wizard, Harry,” Harry instead had a hallucination on his eleventh birthday about salmon, a mop, the ancient Aztecs, and pretzel buns. Are these completely arbitrary items that could mean anything? SO IS CHEESE.]

Tris looks at the picture and thinks the guy looks familiar, but she keeps telling the man she doesn’t recognise him even though she feels like she’s lying. How this is supposed to determine what one characteristic people are meant to embody for the rest of their life is beyond me.

The man freaks the fuck out like most insane people you’re unlucky enough to meet on public transportation:

“If you know him,” he says in a low voice, “you could save me. You could save me!”

I narrow my eyes. “Well,” I say. I set my jaw. “I don’t.”

Obviously, this is meant to signify that Tris isn’t selfless enough for Abnegation because she doesn’t care that she could save this random crazy dude on a train. [Matthew says: If only it was ever explained what any of the alternatives are!] Because how you choose to act in one moment signifies every action you’re going to ever take. And also each action you take can only mean one thing and one thing only! [Matthew says: Not taking the cheese only ever means you’re not Abnegation. It never means you’re lactose intolerant.]

Important question: Would you have chosen the cheese, the knife, or being divergent as fuck and chosen neither?



  1. Bellomy Reply

    This reminds me of the shitty Pottermore sorting hat test.

    :Do you choose the forest, the sky, or the ocean?”

    “Wait, what do those have to – ”


    “But there’s only three-”


    Anyway, what I’m trying to saying is that’s the story of how I ended up in Ravenclaw despite nearly failing Physics, Bio and Bio II, and failing Educational Psychology.

    • Dana Reply

      Ha, I ended up in Slytherin. When I told my friends about it, more than half of them just laughed and said, “Of COURSE you did.”


      • 22aer22 Reply

        Hahaha oh my god, Bellomy, it is EXACTLY that. I guess the logic is that there is no other way to properly categorize someone’s personality unless you make them randomly select something from a predetermined set of things.

        Dana, a friend of mine has a similar issue except that half of our friendship group is convinced she’d be in Hufflepuff while the other half think Slytherin. It is the weirdest debate ever, but she gets really affronted when she’s accused of being Slytherin, which is apparently a real issue.

      • Bellomy Reply

        My friends almost universally agree that I belong in Hufflepuff, and I completely agree.

      • Bellomy Reply

        I will never get why people would be proud to be in, or want to get into, Slytherin. There are literally no Slytherins that are positive characters in the novels, except sort of kind of Slughorn. No, I am not counting Narcissa Malfoy. Loving your son does not make you not a bitch.

        Seriously, the Sorting Hat could barely think of ways to word things nicely about them. “Ehhhhhh…they like power…and they’re good at getting power…and yeah, that’s it, Otherwise they fucking suck.”

        That line was cut from the finished Sorting Hat song.

      • Dana Reply

        I feel like if JK Rowling had started out writing for an older audience, there would be more positive Slytherin characters, and they wouldn’t have been so EVIL and rather one-dimensional. Harry Potter was originally written for young kids, and was therefore fairly black-and-white (Gryffindor were the absolute good guys, Slytherin undoubtedly the bad guys).

        Slytherin is supposed to be about ambition and resourcefulness, which are honestly pretty good traits to have, but the house became much more narrow and, again, EVIL because of the simplistic narrative JK Rowling started out with.

      • 22aer22 Reply

        You’d think with such a convenient way to identify evil people, there would have been more Slytherin Intervention programs.

    • E.H.Taylor Reply

      I keep getting Gryffindor whose values are bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry.
      I have none of these. Mainly, I’m just stubborn and opinionated which seems to also work for them?

  2. A Reply

    I listened to the audiobook of City of Ember recently (because the library’s audiobook website does not differentiate books for children and adults so I had no clue about the reading level), and it was, you know, a fine concept for dystopian young fiction and whatnot, but I could NOT get over the vagueness of their economy. Everyone is given a job out of a hat, but some people work in inherited shops, they don’t earn the same amount at these jobs, shopowners maybe pay for supply or not and then maybe set their own prices or not… It drove me crazy. So I understand your pain about this food supply thing. For sure.

    • Bellomy Reply

      that book was fairly decent. The sequel, “The People of Sparks” was actually better, believe it or not.

      I know there was a third book, a pre-quel, but nothing about it interested me so fuck that.

      • 22aer22 Reply

        I’ve actually never heard of this series, but it sounds confusing at least economy wise. Also, it’s super bizarre that books for children and adults aren’t separated 0o that seems like it could lead to some awkward situations.

    • Judy Reply

      I really liked City of Ember and the sequel. The prequel was the weakest in the series.

  3. janelovering Reply

    Hang on, there are two baskets, one with cheese and one with a knife? Does no one ever choose the baskets? You can do a lot with a basket. Muzzle a dog, for one.

    • 22aer22 Reply

      Shit, you aren’t just divergent as fuck, you’re supercalifragilisticexpialidociously divergent. Not even *Tris* went for the basket.

  4. Kristin Reply

    More importantly, you should always pick cheese because you can have Grilled Cheese, duh!

    (Aside: I am from Chicago so I had to snicker at the Cub/Sox faction analogy. So true!! And yes, I am a Sox Fan so I have experienced a World Series Championship in my lifetime 😉 )

    Back to factions, why would anyone willingly choose to stay in the boring one?? (The Abernathy one? Or whatever it’s called.) Plus the whole mirror thing is so implausible. Are all factions mirror-less? If they go to the same school are there none in the bathrooms? Or what if you catch a glimpse in the bus’s rear view mirror?

    • 22aer22 Reply

      Exactly! Picking the cheese is always the right option no matter what faction you’re in because grilled cheese.

      I am dying at the Abernanthy faction. What would that even entail? Would it be pear/cardigan Abby from chapter 1 or the Abby from every other chapter? Would they all have plot puppies and date people from the Maddox faction?

      Yeah, basically it seems that no one really stays in Abnegation anymore, because I don’t know why anyone ever wanted to join it in the first place. It is just the worst!

      I hadn’t even thought of the mirror-less thing being at the schools. It was just such a weird detail, I don’t think Veronica Roth actually gave it too much thought. I think she’s a good writer, but it seemed like she kind of felt into the trap of needing to find a reason to describe what her female protagonist looked like straight away and was like, “Oooh I can also show how uptight Abnegation is.”

      • bookbaron Reply

        Only people who hate themselves pick Abnegation.

        I really feel like there should have been stages for this picking thing. Like sure you have a picking stage at 16 but you should be allowed to change your mind if you wish at 26, 36, 46 and so on and so forth. You mean to tell me people really want to be 80 years old and jumping out of trains (although I suspect Dauntless don’t live long)? That way, it would make more sense for there to be people in Abnegation. Like they get older and are like… Oh! I actually want to be good to everyone now. I’ve found my calling. No more mirrors!

        I think I would have picked Amity. Foods’ where it’s at. Plus, pretty sure I’d live longer.

    • 22aer22 Reply

      Same! I was initially very skeptical of Tris because of this moment, but I actually wound up really liking her throughout the book. We all make mistakes, so this is forgivable I suppose.

  5. Judy Reply

    Predictable story with a lot a eye rolling elements. Glad you two are reading the second and third books instead of me. Loving the snarky comments. Does anyone remember the Tripods series by John Christopher?

  6. Beatriz Reply

    Oh, come on, Slytherin is a fun house, despite it lacks likable characters. Okay, despite every other test I’ve ever took telling me I’m a Ravenclaw, pottermore put me in Sly, and the prefect welcoming text makes you really like the house. I think JK made a real mistake by not puting any “good” character on Sly, then having Dumbledore saying that Snape could’ve been a Griff at one of his few likable moments but then declaring every house has good and bad. It can have,but this doesn’t reflect on the text.

    Now, for Divergent, the only choice can be cheese. You can eat cheese. That’s it.

  7. Sarcasm&Lemons (@cjlistro) Reply

    Despite enjoying this book a lot, the whole Divergent thing REALLY bugged me. The sorting test, erm ceremony, is so wishy washy and Divergence is such a nebulous concept through the whole book. So you’re telling me EVERYONE who takes the cheese belongs in the same faction forever? And almost everyone but Tris takes a super easy pathway through the whole test? I’m underwhelmed. Nice post. Can’t wait to see what you guys think of the rest.


    • 22aer22 Reply

      Same!! I couldn’t put the book down, and I was really into the story during initiation, but whenever there’d be a line like, “I like meat. I like potatoes. I AM DIVERGENT” I’d be like, “Please, no.”

  8. Savvy Reply

    I think my decision would be based entirely on what kind of cheese it was. Like, mild cheddar? Colby jack? Hell yeah, the cheese. Bleu or gruyere? WITH NO CRACKERS?? I’ll take the knife.

    • bookbaron Reply

      Oh! I agree. Type of cheese determines whether or not I pick it up. Sharp cheddar? Dood, forget the test. That cheese is mine!

  9. Pingback: Dauntless, We Jump From Dangerous Heights Just Because: Divergent Chapters 5 & 6 | Bad Books, Good Times

  10. bookbaron Reply

    Cheese. And I probably would have eaten it too. Because why in the world would I give it to the dog? I love dogs and all but really? Perfectly good hunk of wasted cheese!

  11. E.H.Taylor Reply

    Back from my trip and ready to start catching up now!
    Also, cheese. Definitely cheese. Especially if it was gouda with jalapeno.

  12. Pingback: Everybody Deletes Tris’ Simulation Footage Because That Isn’t Suspicious at All: Divergent Chapter 20 | Bad Books, Good Times

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