Tris Passes Dauntless Testing: Divergent Chapters 31 and 32

I went to a Spoon concert this week! Well, you’re all caught up on my life.

Chapter 31

Tris comes out of the test-hallucination and Eric tells her that she’s completed her final evaluation, and then does something totally not suspicious:

“This [syringe] will inject you with a tracking device that will be activated only if you are reported missing. Just a precaution. […] This is a new development, courtesy of the Erudite. We have been injecting every Dauntless throughout the day”

Not at all suspicious
Not at all suspicious

To be fair, Tris does realize this is sketchy, but knows she’s kind of stuck and complies. [Ariel says: I also like how Eric’s reasoning is on the same level as an excuse for why you suddenly need your significant other’s password. Oh, um, this is just a precaution in case you go missing suddenly and no one can clear your internet history.] She runs into Four/Tobias, who compliments her on having only seven fears on this incredibly accurate and meaningful test of an inherently unquantifiable thing. Tris deduces that he probably didn’t see the particular fear that was Four sexually assaulting her.

“If you want some peace and quiet, you can stay with me until the banquet.”
My stomach twists.
“What is it?” he asks.
I don’t want to go back to the dormitory, and I don’t want to be afraid of him.

And lo, we’re currently fulfilling the obligatory “female character is terrified of being raped” part of the book. [Ariel says: It’s especially weird given we’re supposed to like Four and be rooting for him and Tris as a couple.]

Obviously, I should explain what I mean by this.

Have you noticed that rape scenes in art and media (literature, television, etc.) are kind of… in vogue lately? I’m NOT saying that stories in these mediums shouldn’t talk about this serious issue, but as a recent Guardian piece on why more women watch The Walking Dead than Game of Thrones observes, “it [is] difficult to deal with the ‘rape and torture’ upon which so many procedural dramas rely”. [Ariel says: Also, Daryl, in a word. I really heart Daryl. And zombies.] This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about this on this blog, even. We’ve criticized “the obligatory sexual assault scene” in Beautiful Disaster, Walking Disaster, and Crossfire (not linking to a specific post because it is the entire plot of Crossfire). Hell, Fifty Shades threw not one, but two different attempted rape scenes at Ana. The problem isn’t talking about how serious rape is, but it’s that it’s become terrifyingly trendy to Talk About How Serious Rape Is… except not really. It’s like the Godwin’s Law of “serious” stories prominently featuring women to use rape as narrative currency to turn the stakes up to 11. She’s not just a hero, she’s a FEMALE hero, and this is the worst problem a female hero can ever encounter ever. This is the sort of thing that Anita Sarkeesian talked about in the newest Feminist Frequency that’s sparked such an internet shitstorm (don’t look it up if you don’t want to ruin your day), except it’s not just background detail to make the world edgy: when it happens to every female main character in every story regardless of how much place it has* in that story, it brings that hollow attempt at edginess to the forefront to bask in its hollowness. It’s become cliched, ubiquitous, and cheap. How the fuck did rape become a trope?

[Ariel says: Here’s my contribution to this, which is an amazing video I found on The A.V. Club. “After comics writer Gail Simone coined the phrase back in 1999, “women in refrigerators” has become shorthand for female characters forced to suffer through rape, torture, and even murder just to give their male counterparts convincing motivation and/or emotional depth.”

Not applicable in all of these stories, but in Reflected in You, Eva’s sexual assault is the motivator for Gideon murdering Nathan, and in Fifty Shades Christian has to come in and save Ana both times. I would say it also inspired Travis to beat people up, but Travis does that for any reason.]

(*Although to be fair, I could see how Divergent planted the seeds for Tris’s sudden fear of sexual assault when Peter felt her up during his attempt to murder her. So maybe Divergent could ultimately have something meaningful to say about this. But at the moment, and based on the quality of the book thus far, I’m not optimistic that this theme won’t simply feel tacked on.)

Anyway, WOW, that was a rough way to have to start this post! Let’s see how long it takes to get back to something we can make jokes about.

“Sometimes I wonder,” I say, as calmly as I can, “What’s in it for you. […] So if you’re just looking for… um, you know… that…”
“What? Sex?” He scowls at me. “You know if that was all I wanted, you probably wouldn’t be the first person I would go to.”

Not yet, I see. [Ariel says: Also, why does everything Four says have to be some sort of fake out? Like, “Yeah you’re not pretty…but I like how you look.” It’s like those feminist guy memes where it’s like, “Get back in the kitchen, woman…is something I’d never say because it’s super offensive.”]

Of course I’m not the first person he would go to  – not the first, not the prettiest, not desirable.

For a character whose defining characteristic is how unique she is, Tris sure is indistinguishable from every other low self-esteem female protagonist we’ve read on this blog.

Yay we can finally start using images from the Fifty Shades movie to make our points! This is a very loose definition of "yay".
Yay! We can finally start using images from the Fifty Shades movie to make our points! This is a very loose definition of “yay”.

Four explains that he meant that he knew Tris wasn’t “like that”. Tris explains her fear landscape, and how she isn’t afraid of Four, but of “being with” Four. Four explains that this is “all new to me, too”. These are all quotes, by the way, just in case you were under the illusion that I was avoiding writing the word “sex” for some reason. [Ariel says: I don’t think anyone would ever accuse us of shying away from writing the word sex. The amount of times this blog is categorised as porn and blocked by web providers is ridiculous. I’ve sent a lot of angry emails.]

Tris shows Four her new Abnegation symbol tattoo, and Four ups the stakes by revealing he has a tattoo of every faction.

“I think we’ve made a mistake,” he says softly. […] “I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.”

breakfast club fist pump
Does that answer your question?

Chapter 32

Tris goes to the banquet and Christina is all “where have you been for the past two hours” and Tris is all 😉

Then they speculate on what jobs they’ll try to get depending on their ranking, and if they made the cut. Tris muses on becoming an ambassador to the other factions, but the others were hoping she’d have aspirations to be Dauntless’s leader-in-training, because none of them can stand the thought of Peter becoming that. Will is interested in that job too, but this would only be significant if I ever remembered who Will is.

Next, they talk about their fear simulations. In response to learning that Tris is afraid of intimacy, Christina, in the grand Bad Books, Good Times tradition of snarky best friends who are really just the worst best friends, super considerately asks, “What was that like? Did someone just… try to do it with you?”

"Tina Belcher 'your ass is grass'"
Fuck you, snarky best friend. No one even likes that stock character.

Eric goes on stage to begin the ceremony. Tris once again observes “that he was an Erudite once”, and it is still super unclear how literally we are supposed to take this, like if Eric is Dauntless, Divergent, or an Erudite/Dauntless spy that is somehow not Divergent. If only we had a clear answer to clear things up, like if we knew if he took the cheese or the knife. [Ariel says: Matt, you pointed this out before, but if he’s just a spy that’s amazing at passing as a member of Dauntless, then even the mysterious folks in charge of factions (or in charge of sending spies into factions??) realize how fucking stupid this system is.]

Eric reveals the rankings.

Tris is first.

phoebe woo hoo

Because ranking teenagers in YA novels is really hot these days, the rankings literally just appear in the book as a list:

  1. Tris
  2. Uriah
  3. Lynn
  4. Marlene
  5. Peter
  6. Will
  7. Christina

Molly and Drew (aka Peter’s interchangeable douche-lackeys) are ranked 11th and 12th, very conveniently, and are therefore cut and factionless. Will and Christina make out in celebration, and then – SURPRISE – Tris kisses Four in front of everybody! For some reason this prompts her to figure out what we all figured out chapters ago.

Tobias’s thumb brushes over the injection site in my neck, and a few things come together at once. I don’t know how I didn’t figure this out before.

Yeah. I don’t know either, Tris. Only literally everything in this book involves mind-control. Even more strangely, this revelation happens in a way that suggests the author forgot she was writing a book and thought she was writing a BuzzFeed article. [Ariel says: It seems kind of like Roth was paying numbers by the hour and wanted to get her money’s worth. Now that she’s calling Four Tobias she had some extra budget to spare.]

One: Colored serum contains transmitters.
Two: Transmitters connect the mind to a simulation program.
Three: Erudite developed the serum.
Four: Eric and Max are working with the Erudite.

“Four Ways You Won’t Believe You Can Organize A Hostile Government Takeover!”

Question: If you had to rewrite any BBGT book title as the title of a BuzzFeed article, what would you come up with? (“Fifty Shades That Should Be Grey!”)

[Ariel says: I’ll bite. “10 Tips for Making the Most of Your Cave Space”

“30 Ways to Know if Your Billionaire Stalker is Right for You.”

Shit this reads like a bad women’s magazine and not necessarily Buzzfeed. Oh well!]

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0 comments

  1. joy Reply

    Er my GERD. Do you remember how my first comment on this website was about cardigans, my love for them, and how the “Disaster” series maligned them?

    Now I have realized, based on this “50 Shades” screenshot, that Ana and I have more or less the exact same blouse. And wardrobe has styled it with a cardigan. Will the madness never end?!

    It’s a nice blouse though; I got mine from a thrift store, before that kind of thing was cool, and it looks dope with all manners of skinny or slouchy jeans. Also with, yes, cardigans. I’m pretty cool, as everyone can clearly tell, so I’m not sure why this movie is trying to convince everyone that the wardrobe of nearly every tattooed Brooklyn hipster/bohemienne circa 2007-2008 is actually hopelessly-unstylish-pathetic-sheltered-virgin wear. But I guess it partially explains why so very many creepy men over the years have assumed I’m a prude who needs liberating via their dicks, when in reality I’ve done all manners of things which I can never tell my mother about and was pretty thoroughly over the “sexual exploration” stage before I was even Ana’s age.

    Tl;dr, fuck Hollywood, fuck FSoG, plus I’m drunk.

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  2. Dana Reply

    I don’t know. I admit, I haven’t read Divergent in its entirety, but I’ve never viewed the hallucination as an “obligatory sexual assault scene” (to me, that’s the scene where Peter touched her chest). At least that’s not how Roth is portraying it. Roth is trying to say that Tris is afraid of affection, not rape. Which isn’t great either, since it no only equates sex and love with each other and almost shows that there is something sort of wrong with Tris for being nervous about sex, but it’s also inconsistent. Tris has been shown to be a little uncomfortable with PDA, but has never mentioned anything about private encounters. Plus, she’s already made out with Four more than once. She clearly isn’t too fearful affection and intimacy. It’s only after the hallucination that she becomes in any way afraid of him.

    And her being nervous about actual sex … well, isn’t that pretty common? I feel like that’s not a weird thing that would find itself in Tris’s Fear Landscape specifically. And being nervous about it doesn’t mean you’re wrong or weird and you should just get over it.

    I almost feel like labeling that as a rape scene is giving Roth too much credit. In my eyes, she’s not trying to tackle (albeit poorly) sexual assault. She’s just trying to make Tris seem relatable and virginal and “oh I’m so nervous around him and he’s probably more experienced than me” and whatever, like so many other female protagonists in YA. Because every girl turns into a pile of slush when they’re with a hot love interest. Tris isn’t afraid of sexual assault, she’s afraid of affection and sex itself, if you go by the author’s intentions.

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    • Judy Reply

      Dana, you put into words exactly what I was thinking. I in no way saw this as a possible rape scene, just Tris not feeling ready to have sex yet. She and Tobias have only kissed and she has no past boyfriend experiences either. The creepy part was adults watching this possible imaginary sexual encounter. I did feel the scene with Peter was definitely sexual assault along with attempted murder. In other books we have read, some of the encounters that our heroines have been “rescued” from have been described as sexual assault, when that may be debatable.

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      This was probably one of the most interesting disagreements I’ve read in the comments, because it really got me thinking about different readings of a text and how there’s no single capital-R “Reading” of a text (and other boring English major stuff). So, uh, props? Props! You make a lot of good points! Here’s some more specific responses, I guess?

      “Which isn’t great either, since it not only equates sex and love with each other and almost shows that there is something sort of wrong with Tris for being nervous about sex”

      Thinking about your comment and Judy’s, I think this is the jump that I made when I started criticizing this scene. And that’s fair. Divergent certainly isn’t the worst offender here, but the way this sort of thing was suddenly sprung on us, I got more than a little deja vu:

      “If you want some peace and quiet, you can stay with me until the banquet.”
      My stomach twists.
      “What is it?” he asks.
      I don’t want to go back to the dormitory, and I don’t want to be afraid of him.

      That’s the quote I pulled to try to get at my complete exhaustion with this sort of thing. Until they actually talk about their feelings (which, just occurred to me, automatically makes these two 100% better than literally every other couple we’ve read on this blog… huh…), it’s sort of just sprung on us out of nowhere that Tris is terrified of Four as a predator. That’s what gave me the gut “THIS AGAIN?” reaction. It’s definitely not a rape scene, but it’s a scene with weird rapey undertones that really needn’t have been there. Maybe my reading of this got complicated by the fear simulation scene and its “no means no” ending? That casts a pretty long shadow. And on that note:

      “Tris isn’t afraid of sexual assault, she’s afraid of affection and sex itself, if you go by the author’s intentions.”

      Aaaaand there’s authorial intent again =/ If you read this subplot like this, that would be way better. But I didn’t get quite the same feeling out of what was actually written.

      And for one last thing, I think you raise a really interesting point I wish I thought to talk about, because it’s probably much closer to what I wanted to criticize:

      “And her being nervous about actual sex … well, isn’t that pretty common? I feel like that’s not a weird thing that would find itself in Tris’s Fear Landscape specifically.”

      Exactly! You’re completely right, or, at least, you should be. Tris IS the only one who has this in their fear landscape, and she is singled out and labelled as “weird” for it. (Christina and Will make fun of her, etc) It’s another example of Divergent doing a terrible job to define Tris as “different”.

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  4. E.H.Taylor Reply

    I think one of the main reasons I like this blog is that while it’s hilarious and bad books get put in their place, serious topics still get brought up and talked about in a way that makes people think, but not feel like that opinion is being shoved down their throat. Also, opinions can be shared, even if they’re different, and actual intelligent discussions take place.

    In other words, this blog gives me hope in humanity.

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