Heartless, Impersonal Dystopia Has Family Reunion Day: Divergent Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Tris changes in the dorm once she checks that Peter and Drew aren’t there, because as long as they’re not there, she has the confidence to be partly-clothed in the dorm now that she beat the shit out of some kid.

Whatever works!
Whatever works!

Eric announces that it is a very special day in their post-apocalyptic, anti-individual, hivemind dystopia founded on dividing society into largely impermeable, warring schisms: the day of happy family reunions! [Ariel says: Imagine if in The Hunger Games the games were paused so everyone could have a family visit. Excuse me, let me stop fighting for my life to tell my mom I’m definitely eating enough vegetables and to please not look under my bed if I die even though there are definitely no porn mags under there.]

Lest this seem sort of out of character for the world of Divergent, Eric assures us that it’s not all tits and rainbows:

“We also take the phrase ‘faction before blood’ very seriously here. Attachment to your family suggests you aren’t entirely pleased with your faction, which would be shameful.”

[Ariel says: So why even HAVE the family reunion day for transfers? So people can sit coldly across from each other, or so Dauntless can use this as a way of determining who doesn’t belong with them?] [Matthew adds: I guess this would make more sense for the other Factions, except sort of not, because don’t most of them hate each other?]

Even worse, Eric then compliments Tris on her fight yesterday, and says that he underestimated her. Tris doubts herself and wonders if she did wrong, since Eric thinks she did something right. She then doubts herself on whether her parents – who are unlikely to show up – will approve of her risque Dauntless clothing. She then sees Peter with his Candor parents and doubts her very identity.

Do they know what kind of person their son is? Then again… what kind of person am I?

In case you were still uncertain if this might be one of the novel’s themes. [Ariel says: My favourite theme is simply that Peter is a massive pile of shit who deserves to be beaten. Former English majors can always identify the most important themes.] 

Tris studies one of the Dauntless families (which answers my “where are all the non-rebellious teenager Dauntless?” question.)

They still look strange to me— a mother with a pierced eyebrow, a father with a tattooed arm, an initiate with purple hair, a wholesome family unit.

Tris sees an even stranger sight: her mother! She shows up all out of place in her modest Abnegation clothing, and sadly explains 1) nobody is visiting Caleb because Erudite-Abgenation tensions have escalated and Erudite has banned any Abnegation visitors (It’s almost like dividing society into largely impermeable factions to prevent conflict doesn’t make any sense. Almost!), and 2) why Tris’s dad refused to come.

“Your father has been selfish lately. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you, I promise.”

[Ariel says: It just means he, like most other people, is probably really bad at being in Abnegation.]

Then her mom spots Four and this chapter gets to the good stuff.

“There’s one of my instructors.” I lean closer to her and say, “He’s kind of intimidating.”
“He’s handsome,” she says.

Tris’s mom strikes up a conversation with Four and young adult fiction, motherfuckers!

I can't believe I finally got a chance to use this gif. And that it was for Divergent.
I can’t believe I finally got a chance to use this gif. And that it was for Divergent.

Four awkwardly interacts with Tris’s mom. Perhaps too awkwardly.

The [handshake] is unnatural for both of them. No, Four was not originally Dauntless if he doesn’t shake hands easily.

Tris can figure that out, but can’t pick up on this:

“Your daughter is doing well here. I’ve been overseeing her training.”
Since when does “overseeing” include throwing knives at me and scolding me at every opportunity?

Or on this:

[My mom] isn’t reacting the way some of the other transfers’ parents are […] looking around at the Pit […] Of course she isn’t curious – she’s Abnegation. Curiosity is foreign to her.

Things get more obvious that maybe everyone isn’t who they seem to be.

She tilts her head. “You look familiar for some reason, Four.”
“I can’t imagine why,” he replies

Neither can I. So I guess Four used to be Abnegation. [Ariel says: Nooooooooo you don’t say?]

Because there's literally no reason why this
Because otherwise there’s literally no reason why this line of dialogue would- yes, it’s Chekhov with guns and that’s the joke.

After Tris’s mom stops totally embarrassing her in front of Four, Tris sees Al’s parents from Candor looking for him, but Al is nowhere to be seen. Al’s mom thinks this book is as stupid as I do.

“Why aren’t there any railings along those paths? Are you all insane?” […]
“Insane, no,” I say. “Dauntless, yes.”

gary-drum-fill

They then have a more uncomfortable encounter with Will’s older sister, who takes one look at Tris’s mom and accuses her of hoarding food through a sham volunteer agency “helping” the factionless. I might care about this if I had any understanding of why everyone hates Abnegation so much. Everybody in the book, that is. I know why Ariel and I hate Abnegation, sure, but I doubt the entire population of post-apocalypse Chicago is really all that torn up by Abnegation’s refusal to eat muffins. [Ariel says: It is kind of suspicious because those muffins sounded delicious!]

Tris’s mom doesn’t have time for this shit and takes Tris away to actually deal with the plot.

She takes a sharp left turn and walks down one of the dark hallways I haven’t explored yet.
“Mom,” I say. “Mom, how do you know where you’re going?”

Tris’s mom asks Tris about her ranking in Dauntless training and her aptitude test results, because Tris’s mom ain’t got time for this shit. Tris says she’s near the bottom, and her mom says this is good because “no one looks too closely at the bottom”, because this book is clearly making up what’s logical as it goes. Tris confides that her results were inconclusive after a dramatic half-page of dilemma, and her mom explains that many children raised Abnegation get that result (but we’re apparently not going to worry about the implications of that) [Ariel says: No, I’m going to worry about that. Being in the most boring faction ever leads to being divergent as fuck apparently] and that she has to not draw attention to herself. She then asks her to visit Caleb at Erudite after initiation, since she can’t do it herself, but refuses to explain why, like most of the things in this book pertaining to the plot.

“I want you to go find him and tell him to research the simulation serum. Okay? Can you do that for me?”
“Not unless you explain some of this to me, Mom!”

Yeah, mom. I get that this is a mystery for now and that’s fine, but why do we get a billion and a half explanations of how Eric is a bad Dauntless whereas Four is a good Dauntless, yet suddenly a plot device is mentioned without context and we’re just supposed to accept that whatever it is is important? Tris’s mom might as well have told Tris to investigate the Gloopenglobin, because that means just as much to us. [Ariel says: I am significantly more interesting in this made-up plot.]

A plot device is a plot device is a plot device is a plot device is a plot device.
A plot device is a plot device is a plot device is a plot device is a plot device.

Even after all of those clues, Tris still has no idea that her mom used to be Dauntless until…

“Have a piece of cake for me, all right? The chocolate. It’s delicious.” […]
My mother was Dauntless.

Seriously, what is it with Abnegation and food? [Ariel says: I just love that chocolate cake is the catalyst for a “major” reveal.]

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8 comments

  1. Kristin

    I’m having a heck of a time getting comments to post here?

    Please tell me that Four “looks familiar” because he is actually the love child of Tris’ mom & a badass Dauntless (redundant?) and that she left the baby behind with the father & joined Abnegation???

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    • matthewjulius

      I thought of that too! Although I didn’t think it would actually be the case for a second. I was just really bored with this plot and was deluding myself with the possibility it might not be completely predictable.

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  2. Savvy

    I totally cracked up laughing at “Insane, no. Dauntless, yes.” I don’t know why that in particular was so hilarious to me.

    All the food references are reminding me of the House of Night books, with Zoey’s damned brown pop and Count Chocula that she starts mentioning like every other chapter in one of the books. But in this book, it’s almost like all the food is supposed to be an intentional motif, but… why? Just to show the difference between the factions or something? That’s halfway between clever and stupid, if that was intentional, which I don’t think it is, it’s just me reading too much into things maybe.

    And yes, go watch Heathers! It’s such a great movie.

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  4. E.H.Taylor

    I just had a thought about how the idea for this book could have been executed better, and it’s if someone like E.L. James had written it. I mean, if you think about it, the whole concept of the novel is that the majority of people have just one defining trait. Where Roth goes wrong is that she has a hard time writing characters who follow this rule and ends up accidentally giving them some depth and making them all Divergent. E.L. James does a really good job of writing one-dimensional characters that might actually fit the original idea of factions.

    Not sure it would be a better novel (Tris would probably have an inner lemming or something like that), but it would probably fit the initial concept better.

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    • matthewjulius

      Oh my god, I think you’re right. I can see this as a sort of Fahrenheit 451 or 1984 thing where most of the characters ARE pretty flat and lack any personality, but it’s not bad writing. It’s just how society has devolved.

      Inner lemming. I see what you did there XD

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