I got confused about what post I was working on and accidentally titled this post Introducing Plot!Child: Insurgent Chapter 10. So spoilers for everyone reading our Beautiful Oblivion posts. [Matthew says: It’s not what you think. It’s stupider.]
I found this chapter really odd in terms of structure. It starts with a really long scene where Tris and Susan realize there’s no privacy in the factionless bathrooms, so they take turns holding up a towel for each other. I mean, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t exactly seem like this is some sort of epic bonding moment for Tris and Susan, nor does it seem like she’s going to play an important role in the book. [Matthew says: I’ve already forgotten who Susan is]
Sure, it gives Tris a brief moment of reflection about the life she and Susan could have led together if she’d stayed in Abnegation except…this would have all happened anyway, and they wouldn’t be raising kids next door to each other because Erudite still would have used Dauntless to attack Abnegation. It also isn’t effective in making us long for Tris to have a life like that because Susan doesn’t even manage to make that life sound idyllic. [Matthew says: Which I guess is a difficult job to ask of her since we just came from banjo farmer happy-drug land, so I don’t know why it’s the self-effacing and emotionless Susan’s job to show Tris the idyllic existence she could have had. Golly, it’s almost as if nothing in this book is conceptualized completely.]
We then abruptly shift gears to Tris vs. Mrs. Four’s mom Evelyn, which jumps right into Evelyn revealing Big News to Tris:
“I was Erudite before I was Abnegation.”
“Oh,” I say. “Guess you couldn’t keep up with a life of academia, then?”
She doesn’t take the bait. “Something like that, yes.” She pauses. “I imagine your father left for the same reason.” I almost turn away to end the conversation, but her words create a kind of pressure inside my mind, like she is squeezing my brain between her hands. I stare.
“Your father was born in Erudite,” she says. “His parents were friends with Jeanine Matthews’s parents, before they died. Your father and Jeanine used to play together as children. I used to watch them pass books back and forth at school.”
I know this is supposed to be a big deal, like when we found out Mrs. Tris’ mom was from Dauntless, but this doesn’t feel like it should…shock Tris to her core if that’s what this scene is even trying to convey. I’m not really fucking sure what this reaction is all about. “Squeezing my brain between her hands”?
Tris finds this hard to believe, but then she breaks it down for us:
The idea is so ridiculous to me that I half snort, half laugh. It can’t be true.
Except: He never talked about his family or his childhood.
Except: He did not have the quiet demeanor of someone who grew up in Abnegation.
Except: His hatred of Erudite was so vehement it must have been personal.
Wasn’t Tris always so frustrated because she couldn’t live up to her father who was the poster child for Abnegations everywhere? We never even had a chance to see any of these alleged dead giveaways that he wasn’t born into Abnegation. Sure, not talking about family or childhood is weird, but wouldn’t Tris have encountered this issue with both her parents? She didn’t wonder about her father sooner than this after finding out her mother was originally from Dauntless? Also, it seems like Erudite was giving everyone in Abnegation a reason to vehemently hate them.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, if Tris suddenly found out Susan’s dad was originally from Mars, I would be equally as uninterested and uninvested.
Evelyn then reveals that Jeanine and Mr. Tris’ dad used to hang out a lot because their families were friends.
Who the fuck cares? I feel like this is all leading to her father having helped create the evil mind-control code or something, but he’s dead so what consequences would that even have? Tris would be shocked/upset for five minutes and then…continue onwards. Unless it fucking turns out that Jeanine is Tris’ real mom, there really isn’t anything too groundbreaking that could come from this that I could think of.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, if Tris suddenly found out Peter’s dad had played on the same little league team as her father during the annual faction little league tournaments, I would be equally as uninterested and uninvested.
[Matthew says: As a counter-argument, I don’t think it’s necessarily meaningless to reveal secrets about a character after they’ve already been killed off. De-sainting Dumbledore after his death not only forced uncertainty upon the characters’ goals and direction in the last Harry Potter novel, but even made his character much more interesting. And if Dumbledore is an example where post-death reveals shake up the series’ foundation, there are also characters like The Comedian in Watchmen where we know nothing about them before they die, but slowly unraveling who they were and why drives the bulk of the story for the characters left behind. I don’t think Tris’s father gets particularly close to either of these examples in terms of how he functions in the narrative, but I don’t think he’s an inherently hopeless case just because he’s dead. Although, as Ariel points out, it’s a completely different case when his story is dead too.]
For those of you familiar with our Crossfire posts, this scene soon becomes extremely similar to all the scenes where Eva confronts Gideon’s mother. Matt’s mentioned before how this serves to take away agency from Four and Gideon, and I just have to add that it continues to irritate me to no end that these scenes also serve as a way to make our protagonist seem really strong.
“Listen carefully,” I say, lowering my voice. I check over her shoulder for Tobias, to make sure he isn’t listening in. All I see is Caleb and Susan on the ground in the corner, passing a jar of peanut butter back and forth. No Tobias. “I’m not stupid,” I say. “I can see that you’re trying to use him. And I’ll tell him so, if he hasn’t figured it out already.”
“My dear girl,” she says. “I am his family. I am permanent. You are only temporary.”
“Yeah,” I say. “His mom abandoned him, and his dad beat him up. How could his loyalty not be with his blood, with a family like that?”
After this boring exchange of Making Tris Seem Like One Tough Cookie, Caleb tells Tris he’s going to accompany Susan to a safe house where more Abnegation are staying before meeting up with Tris and Four on their journey to Candor headquarters. Because we haven’t had enough of those guys yet!
Tris and Four go to Candor headquarters where lots of Dauntless guards are…guarding? [Matthew says: They didn’t really figure out division of labor in this post-apocalyptic dystopia.]
“A Dauntless soldier with an arm in a sling approaches us, gun held ready, barrel fixed on Tobias.
“Identify yourselves,” she says. She is young, but not young enough to know Tobias.
The others gather behind her. Some of them eye us with suspicion, the rest with curiosity, but far stranger than both is the light I see in some of their eyes. Recognition. They might know Tobias, but how could they possibly recognize me?
Turns out they’ve been instructed to arrest Tris and Four upon their arrival for some reason that I’m sure is super fascinating.