Yes, it's Time For Another Simulation. Sigh: Divergent Chapter 18

"Oh come on!"

Tris went ziplining with the Dauntless-born initiates, so if you missed that action-paced chapter you’re not going to have any idea what’s going on in the rest of the book.

Chapter 18

The second stage of initiation is underway. This means more ass-kicking, butt-crunching action that “no one can prepare” for.

Or, OR, it’s another fucking simulation.

“What’s the simulation?” I say, trying to keep my voice from shaking. I don’t succeed.
“Ever hear the phrase ‘face your fears’?” he says. “We’re taking that literally. The simulation will teach you to control your emotions in the midst of a frightening situation.”

"Oh come on!"

Simulations are to Divergent what cave tours were to The Host. I wish Uncle Jeb would show up to lead a simulation and a spectacular tour of the Dauntless cave pit. [Matthew says: I like the simulations, because it’s like the book is so artificial, even its artificiality is artificial.]

Aside from being something that seems completely outside the realm of scientific possibility (I don’t care how smart Erudite is meant to be), it’s just a lazy way to develop Tris (and eventually Four’s) characters and their inner emotional world. To be fair, if I thought these simulation scenes were more compelling, I wouldn’t care that they’re a tad contrived, but they’re some of my least favourite parts about this book. [Matthew says: Good thing it’s about half of the book!] For those of you who have read the whole series, are there more simulations? You can spoil it for me, I promise.

“We use a more advanced version of the simulation here,” he says, “a different serum, no wires or electrodes for you.”
“How does it work without wires?”
“Well, I have wires, so I can see what’s going on,” he says. “But for you, there’s a tiny transmitter in the serum that sends data to the computer.”

Seriously, the fuck? Science, where are you? We need you here immediately. Sure, this would make sense if he was simply monitoring her reactions, but we know that these simulations can be watched by someone else, so WHAT GIVES?

Four jumps in to Dauntsplain the task at hand and the “science” behind it:

“In addition to containing the transmitter, the serum stimulates the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in processing negative emotions—like fear—and then induces a hallucination.

Okay, I smell what you’re cooking, Veronica Roth. I also like your fancy choice of words for a part of the brain I know nothing about and am too lazy to Google. Well played.

“The brain’s electrical activity is then transmitted to our computer, which then translates your hallucination into a simulated image that I can see and monitor.”

See, this is where it still just makes no sense to me. I would believe it if they drugged her before they went into a virtual reality simulation, but for technology to have advanced to the point where they can translate your brain activity into a specific image…This isn’t The Magic Treehouse, okay, it’s a little harder for me to suspend my disbelief here. [Matthew says: Also, what the fuck kind of post-apocalypse is this where we have technology that can display people’s dreams on a monitor, but we have, you know, the apocalypse?]

I will then forward the recording to Dauntless administrators. You stay in the hallucination until you calm down—that is, lower your heart rate and control your breathing.”

Well played again, Roth. You tried to hide that one really stupid sentence right in the middle of two things I enjoyed. Like putting delicious, homemade bread around a turd, which is an analogy that works because of how frequently it occurs of course.

And now, a special moment out of context:

“He plants his hands on either side of my head and leans over me.
“Be brave, Tris,” he whispers. “The first time is always the hardest.”

😉 That is all.

Fear 1: Getting eaten alive by crows. My fellow We’re Back fans will recognise this clip (I’m pretty sure it’s been shared in the comments before.)

I personally would find this more terrifying if it were swans because those motherfuckers are vicious, but to each his own. I’ve never seen Hitchcock’s The Birds, but I’m assuming even in the dystopian world of Divergent it must still be a very popular film, which would explain Tris’ fear.

Just kidding, the fear is of course A Metaphor, which Tris will explain in great detail later for us because everyone knows the best way to do symbolism is to say, “Screw your interpretations, THIS IS WHAT I’M TRYING TO SYMBOLISE, MOTHERFUCKERS!” [Matthew says: And it even symbolizes something that hasn’t been introduced yet! This is actually how most of Divergent is written! Writing!]

Tris finally calms down and breaks free of the simulation. Once back in reality, she begins crying, and tries to protest when Four offers to walk her back to the dormitory. Ooooer. Tris starts criticising the simulations, arguing that they’re actually pretty useless (word, girl, word), but Four points out that learning to think rationally when you’re terrified is a super important Dauntless skill. You know, because they do crazy shit like turning their flashlights off because someday they might not have a flashlight. Courageous! Daring! Dauntless.

Anyway, Tris thinks she did a shitty job at the simulation, but Four reveals the truthy truth:

“Three minutes,” he replies. “You got out three times faster than the other initiates. Whatever you are, you’re not a failure.”

Divergent as fuck is what she is. Oh, come on, I had to go there. Just be cool, guys.

I used to think the Dauntless were fearless. That is how they seemed, anyway. But maybe what I saw as fearless was actually fear under control.

Matthew says: Unless
Matthew says: Unless it involves flashlights.

The Dauntless are actually always about five seconds away from shitting their pants, but stage three is about going beyond controlling your mind and instead about controlling your bowel movements. Shit is going to literally get very real. I’ll be here all week, that is, if Matt continues to want to blog with me.

And now it’s the time I warned you about, the time to explain that the metaphor is a metaphor, just in case you were like, “Oh shizzy, when did Tris get to be so scared of crows?!”

“Anyway, your fears are rarely what they appear to be in the simulation,” he adds.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, are you really afraid of crows?” he says, half smiling at me. The expression warms his eyes enough that I forget he’s my instructor. He’s just a boy, talking casually, walking me to my door. “When you see one, do you run away screaming?”
“No. I guess not.” I think about stepping closer to hi
m, not for any practical reason, but just because I want to see what it would be like to stand that close to him; just because I want to.
Foolish, a voice in my head says.
I step closer and lean against the wall too, tilting my head sideways to look at him. As I did on the Ferris wheel, I know exactly how much space there is between us. Six inches. I lean. Less than six inches. I feel warmer, like he’s giving off some kind of energy that I am only now close enough to feel.
“So what am I really afraid of?” I say.
“I don’t know,” he says. “Only you can know.”

This is some of the worst flirtation I have ever seen, and I read Fifty Shades of Grey where they would literally just say things like, “Well hello, Mrs Grey.” “Hello, Mr. Grey” And get massive erections for each other.

In what world would talking about running away screaming from crows be the ultimate lead-in to a flirtation? I don’t even believe the world of Divergent would be the place for this. I would believe it if they were talking about chocolate cake, because I believe that could be the catalyst for literally any event in this series. War about to break out? Chocolate cake probably was the cause. Tris and Four about to fuck? They were probably eating chocolate cake moments before. I would even go so far as to say I believe a freshly baked Abnegation muffin would be more flirtatious than a discussion about scary crows.

Wait, so what is Tris afraid of then?

I nod slowly. There are a dozen things it could be, but I’m not sure which one is right, or if there’s even one right one.

Veronica Roth didn’t want to commit to one interpretation yet. You get to think just a little bit. [Matthew says: Tris is so divergent, even her fears are divergent.]

Four then explains that Dauntless initiation used to be different, but a few years ago they made everything more brutal and Eric-like. He also reveals that, gasp, Eric ranked second in their group of initiates while Four ranked first, which has been a sore-spot for Eric ever since. In Eric’s defence, it sounds like he never stabbed anyone in the eye with a butter knife, so I guess that makes him slightly better than Peter, which is like saying you’re not the worst Kardashian.

So what are your interpretations of Tris’ crow dream? Mine is that she’s Jesus because it’s the always the easiest go-to metaphor for me. [Matthew says: Mine is that she should really have waited for the book to reveal that she was scared of birds before she got a bird tattoo. She thought she was safe when the book explained what the tattoo symbolized when she got it, but NOPE, MORE EXPLANATIONS.]



  1. Lougoober Reply

    I’ve actually always been terrible at understanding metaphors so I don’t mind a whole lot that they’re explicitly pointing out “IT’S A METAPHOR! Here’s what it means” in this book

    As for what the crows represent, I dunno… death? Or maybe they represent fear, and the fact that the only thing she fears is fear itself makes her super wise and hella Dauntless.
    And they’re eating her alive because of this book’s weird obsession with food.

    • matthewjulius Reply

      I get what you’re saying. I think the point I’m trying to get at isn’t so much that it’s inherently a bad thing when a book lays out a metaphor for you, but it’s tricky to do that without seeming… patronizing. Like, “OH MY GOD, Tris. We get it. Four is the good kind of Dauntless and Eric is the bad kind of Dauntless. You don’t have to break down their allegorical combat of good and evil every single time they talk about, like, what they’re eating for lunch or whatever.”

      • Lougoober Reply

        Oh, definitely. I read a book that was like this – being over-the-top with not only that EVERYTHING was a metaphor, but also explaining it all the time, but it was even kind of smug about how everything was symbolic… ugh.

        • 22aer22 Reply

          Oh that’s just the worst, when they get smug about their metaphors. It’s like yeah yeah congratu-fucking-lations on your metaphor.

          I think you’re right in that sometimes it’s nice if it’s spelled out a little bit, but there is a point where the flashing neon signs saying, “This way to a metaphor!” Is just too much.

          • Anonymous Reply

            Writers, don’t ever explain your metaphors ever. That’s what English Majors are for.

  2. Claudia M. Reply

    Tris’ fear of cows obviously refers back to her fear of eating a burger for the first time at Dauntless. I like to thing there is some kind of overarching beef theme going on.

  3. Kristin Reply

    I think the crow is actually a manifestation of Eric (who is apparently the baddest Dauntless of them all, despite being #2?. She is afraid of said crow because she thought she was attracted to Four, who might not be bad ass enough for her, even though he is #1. If I have learned anything from YA fiction, it is that there can never be enough boys falling all over our heroine, and she will always be a Mary Sue that cannot believe she is worthy of all this attention since she is just so plain (and also Divergent).

    • 22aer22 Reply

      You raise a good point, why isn’t Eric madly in love with Tris? Al and Four just aren’t enough. WE NEED MORE!!!

  4. malcolmthecynic Reply

    So I just saw Matthew’s Twitter, and here is my brief comment on “The Giver”:

    It was always going to be kind of shit, since the book was always going to make an awful movie. The “action” consists of mostly Jonas quietly discovering the truth about the world, and then his escape with Gabe at the end. And I had absolutely no faith that the screenwriters would be able to add anything to that worth watching.

    • matthewjulius Reply

      Hahaha, sure, let’s talk about The Giver!

      Aside from seeing a poster on the New York subway, I didn’t hear any buzz about this movie whatsoever. But when I saw that they were adapting a decades-old classic and advertizing it with a poster that looked almost exactly like The Host, that was the red flag right there.

      But more specifically in response to your point, I just don’t get why it had to be “action” at all? Like… the book wasn’t. So why should the movie? It just struck me as very pandering to an audience that didn’t even care about the source material to begin with.

      • malcolmthecynic Reply

        Basically, I think that properly adapted the movie would suck, and now that they need to make up a bunch of shit to go along with it…it’ll still suck, and probably worse.

        I don’t think you really can make a good movie out of this book.

        • 22aer22 Reply

          I heard so little hype about this movie, that this comment was the first I heard about it, and was just thinking to myself, “What on earth…” and then I looked it up…and T.Swift? Whaaat?

          I don’t know if I want to see it, because yeah…this is the kind of book that doesn’t really seem like a great idea for a film adaptation, but I guess if all the other dystopian YA books are doing it, you don’t want to be, like, a total social pariah and have to go sit at the lunch table with all the lame books that haven’t been turned into movies.

  5. Hanna Reply
    • spoilers, but you asked *

    I have read this whole series, and as I recall, the simulations fall off a lot after the first book. They still use drugs for everything, though. My overall impression of Tris being divergent was that she was drug resistant.

    I am hoping that you see this series through. The second book was painfully angsty, so there is lots of material there. The third book actually tries to explain the existence of the faction system, and I liked the ending that all the fans hated.

      • Hanna Reply

        The second book has drugs to make you happy, drugs to make you dead, drugs for military action, and designer drugs for every faction.

        But it’s still better than Mockingjay.

        • 22aer22 Reply

          Yeah, it’s really confusing to me. If Tris is only truly Divergent because she just happens to be resistant to the mind control drugs…meh. Then again (spoilers for the end of book 1), Four is Divergent and succumbs to them and only breaks free because of the power of love or something. So is everyone Divergent as fuck but only super Divergent as fuck if they’re born with a resistance to these drugs? And if it’s mainly Abnegations that are resistant, does that mean there’s something in the muffins they’re baking or is it actually genetics? Questions, man, questions.

  6. janelovering Reply

    Maybe her fear of crows is a metaphor for her fear of parrots? Maybe she is terrified of being pecked to death by brightly coloured birds all screaming her name as they carve her flesh into…oh. Just me then. OK.

  7. deleted Reply

    So I heard once that Abegernation or whatever is supposed to be a metaphor for Christianity… And yeah I can’t remember the rest of the review that mentioned it. But I remember thinking it had some great points.

  8. E.H.Taylor Reply

    I think I might have posted that We’re Back clip in the comments at some point. I love that movie, but it’s absolutely terrifying at the same time and I don’t know how I didn’t get nightmares as a child.

    I love how Four explains away Tris’s fear with “well, you don’t go screaming if you see a single crow”. I’m not afraid of one crow either, but I sure as shit would be terrified of a bunch of crows trying to eat me alive.

    • 22aer22 Reply

      Yes! I thought it was you, but I was struggling to find the post with the clip in the comments, so I wasn’t sure.

      It’s so weird, but it didn’t even hit me at first how disturbing that scene is when you think about it. I remember feeling vaguely sad/depressed during that scene, but it wasn’t until I watched it when I was older that I really said, “Hey, wait, that’s really dark for a kid’s movie. Did he really just get eaten by crows?”

  9. Anita Reply

    I am a million years late on this because I just found this great blog. But. Does it bother anyone else that this simulation/initiation is basically identical to the Ordeal in the Alanna books, except with lower stakes because people do in fact die during the Ordeal?

    • 22aer22 Reply

      The Tamara Pierce books? I read those when I was a lot younger, I don’t really remember the Ordeal to well. I’m curious now, though, and I want to look into it!


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