Chapter 34: Tris
As part of the beginning of her training to join the Bureau of Genetic Welfare council, Tris goes on a visit to the impoverished wasteland known as the fringe. As is obviously the most necessary thing 2/3 of the way into this last book of a trilogy, it’s time to meet MORE NEW CHARACTERS.
First, we meet members of the Bureau’s security team! Which for some reason we did not meet during the attack on the Bureau a few chapters ago, but shhhhhhh
- Amar – who isn’t technically new, but he’s Tobias’s old mentor (whose existence we didn’t know until he showed up and said, “Hi, I’m Tobias’s old mentor”). I can’t remember if we’ve seen him once or twice previously, which isn’t a great sign for a new character we’re now maybe wrapping up this series with to have never been memorable.
- George – Tori’s brother, who is not technically new either, but given how previously his entire role in the narrative was to be not-Tori, he might as well be
- Jack – some guy!
- Violet – some lady!
- Ann – yet another lady! But I bet you know just as much about her as you do about Amar and George!
The six of them get into a truck and drive out to the fringe on a mission to set up “more extensive surveillance” after the most recent attack. Tris and Amar also have a philosophical debate about whether genetic damage is real, which by this point in the story is as enjoyable and meaningful as asking random people on Twitter whether misogyny is real.
“So you believe it all? All the stuff about genetic damage being the cause of . . . this?” […]
“You don’t?” Amar says. “The way I see it, the earth has been around for a long, long time. Longer than we can imagine. And before the Purity War, no one had ever done this, right?” He waves his hand to indicate the world outside.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I find it hard to believe that they didn’t.”
“Such a grim view of human nature you have,” he says.
Just in case we weren’t sure about this point about how people buy into the social constructs they’re given – which has been, you know, the major theme of the entire Divergent series for the past two and two-thirds of a book – Tris explains what this means again:
Evelyn tried to control people by controlling weapons, but Jeanine was more ambitious— she knew that when you control information, or manipulate it, you don’t need force to keep people under your thumb. They stay there willingly.
That is what the Bureau— and the entire government, probably— is doing: conditioning people to be happy under its thumb.
Even if you like these books (maybe especially if you like these books), I’m pretty unsure how you could get to page 345 of the third book and not already get this concept. For a book that’s so weirdly (if unintentionally) anti-intellectual (see Erudite), it’s really weird how much of it is the book trying really, really, really, really hard to sound smart. Case in point:
How many different kinds of ruin do you have to see before you resign yourself to calling it all “ruin”?
Tris and the gang of five minor characters reach a populated part of the fringe, which sends the locals running away and screaming in terror. After walking around a bit, they hear gunshots and George screaming for help. Tris gets separated from the group in the commotion, but is taken in by… a small old woman?
A hand closes around my arm and drags me backward, into one of the aluminum lean-tos. […] standing in front of me is a small, thin woman with a grubby face.
“You don’t want to be out there,” she says. “They’ll lash out at anyone, no matter how young she is.”
“They?” I say.
“Lots of angry people here in the fringe,”
The random woman continues to help Tris for no clear reason. They too begin to discuss the relevant sociopolitical issues of their time. As you do.
“[Y]ou must be Genetic Welfare types, right?”
“No,” I say. “I mean, they are, but I’m from the city. I mean, Chicago.”
Amy’s eyebrows pop up high. “Damn. Has it been disbanded?”
“Unfortunate?” I frown at her. “That’s my home you’re talking about, you know.”
Because even though the book has been painstakingly spelling out how bad the genetic modification experiments are for two and two-thirds of a book, usually by Tris’s own narration, Tris still doesn’t get that the Chicago experiment was bad.
“Well your home is perpetuating the belief that genetically damaged people need to be fixed— that they’re damaged, period, which they— we— are not.” […]
I hadn’t thought about it that way.
Amy arbitrarily decides it’s safe for Tris to leave now, having fulfilled whatever her role in the plot was supposed to be. Tris immediately runs into George, who is held at gunpoint by some young people living on the fringe, demanding to know where “you’ve been taking our people!” Before this can get interesting, Amar also appears and the outnumbered fringe youths scatter. Tris continues to provide incredibly useless insights into the events of the world around her.
I wonder who taught these people to be so terrified of soldiers. I wonder what made a young boy desperate enough to aim a gun at one of them.
The book half-asses its explanation for why Tris and co are even out there in the first place:
“Luckily, that’s the last set of coordinates,” Violet says. “Let’s get going.”
Why are we out here? COORDINATES. Why are you still asking questions? We have shit to coordinate with these coordinates!
Then we also learn that Amar is gay and used to have an unrequited crush on Four, because I guess this is as logical a time for him to reveal personal information to a relative stranger as anything as that happens in this book. To be fair, the book finally does some interesting world-building into this genetics-obsessed society. For, like, a paragraph, but check it:
“You have to understand,” Amar says. “The Bureau is obsessed with procreation— with passing on genes. And George and I are both GPs, so any entanglement that can’t produce a stronger genetic code . . . It’s not encouraged, that’s all.”
Amar also tells Tris that Four seems to be a more stable person with Tris:
Four without you is a much different person. He’s . . . obsessive, explosive, insecure . . .”
“What else do you call someone who repeatedly goes through his own fear landscape?”
The fact that he was doing that while he was with Tris notwithstanding, of course.
Question of the Day: I genuinely liked this last bit here about Divergent-world’s spin on homophobia and how this character struggles with it. It’s a short, but sweet glimpse at how a facet of society has been influenced by the sci fi world it exists in. It also retrospectively sheds an interesting light on the deathbed coming out of the last character we learned was LGBTQ, and why there might have been more to them hiding that part of their identity then we thought. Of course, none of this might have been intentional, but that doesn’t matter (intentional fallacy, blah blah blah), if there’s something interesting to engage with in there.
What other stuff would you be genuinely interested to know about the genetic purity-obsessed world of Divergent that the book will probably never answer because it’s still not sure if we get that genetic purity is a bad thing to be obsessed about?