We Still Don’t Learn What The Factions Are: Divergent Chapters 3 and 4

Posted on July 11, 2014 by


Yesterday we started our new reading of the faction system dystopia YA craze that is Veronica Roth’s Divergent, which began with not actually getting an explanation for what the faction system is. [Ariel says: I feel almost bad that I explained what Abnegation was, but I had no choice. The jokes, Matt, the jokes.]

Chapter 3

Beatrice awakes from her personality test, and the administrator says what everyone is thinking.

“That,” she says, “was perplexing.”

Noooooo. You mean the test where she had to pick between two unrelated objects and then talk to stranger on a bus didn’t determine which incredibly specific personality trait is the one and only aspect of Beatrice’s personality?

The administrator leaves the room for a moment to process the results. Beatrice nervously ponders what will happen if she failed the test (can you pass the cheese-knife test?) [Ariel says: Yes. By choosing the cheese, because cheese.], and if she would have to live on the streets with the factionless (we haven’t even learned what the factions are yet and we’re already learning what the alternative is). Thankfully, Tori returns to the room to… explain?

“If you had shown an automatic distaste for the knife and selected the cheese, the simulation would have led you to a different scenario that confirmed your aptitude for Amity.”

Yes, the only thing that could have meant. Not that she was hungry, but that she’s Amity. Whatever the fuck Amity is. We haven’t been told yet. [Ariel says: They are very nice and peaceful. Sorry spoilers, but I don’t understand why it would have automatically taken her to an Amity scenario and not Abnegation? They don’t seem like they would go for a knife either?] And how is selecting cheese more telling than selecting the knife? Anyone can like cheese. Only Dauntless would seem to have any inclination towards violence, since they’re, you know, the soldier faction.

“Normally, the simulation progresses in a linear fashion, isolating one faction by ruling out the rest. The choices you made didn’t even allow Candor, the next possibility, to be ruled out, so I had to alter the simulation to put you on the bus. And there your insistence upon dishonesty ruled out Candor.


“You threw yourself on the dog rather than let it attack the little girl, which is an Abnegation-oriented response… but on the other, when the man told you that the truth would save him, you still refused to tell it. Not an Abnegation-oriented response.” She sighs. “Not running from the dog suggests Dauntless, but so does taking the knife, which you didn’t do. […] Your intelligent response to the dog indicates strong alignment with the Erudite.”

squidward head slamming gif

Maybe the fact that you can’t interpret these test results show that it’s a really stupid test. Most of these things could be interpreted in any direction for any arbitrary reason! If not running away from the dog is a Dauntless response, then what the hell is an Erudite supposed to do to get to the Erudite response? They can’t take the cheese! ONLY AMITY LIKES CHEESE. [Ariel says: I seriously wish that Amity’s defining characteristic wasn’t how nice they are but that they are massive cheese fans. Whatever, that’s what they are in my mind now.]

“you display equal aptitude for Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. People who get this kind of result are…” She looks over her shoulder […] “Divergent.”

Suddenly, things get even more serious than Amity’s love for cheese:

“Beatrice,” she says, “under no circumstances should you share that information with anyone. […] Divergence is extremely dangerous. You understand?”

I don’t understand.

Oh thank god we finally have a main character in one of these books who tells it like it is. [Ariel says: Tris for the win!]

Tori imparts the importance of keeping her divergence secret and tells her to go home early. Beatrice reminds us how pointless all of this is.

It’s my choice now, no matter what the test says.

Keep this in mind, that (even though this would seemingly make them divergent, but we’ll just ignore that) the test only recommends what a person’s one true only-character-trait/faction is, it’s ultimately their choice what faction they are. So a faction has seemingly been established as a social order that humanity buys into, which becomes important later when this sort of contradicts the mechanics of the climax. (No spoilers in the comments, please. Let’s get there first.)

Renovation moves slowly through the city.

Probably because none of your factions are workers.

Most of the new buildings are next to the marsh, which used to be a lake a long time ago.

I will say one thing I really liked about the Divergent movie: I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, so I thought it was really cool how they visually imagined a post-apocalyptic Chicago.

Although I am uncertain if "it turned a cherished place from my childhood and adolescence into a devastated wasteland" would be a plus for everyone.

Although I am uncertain if “it turned a cherished place from my childhood and adolescence into a devastated wasteland” universally counts as “cool factor”.

Chapter 4

Beatrice returns to Abnegation-land, and really tries to make sure we get what their deal is.

Everything – our houses, our clothes, our hairstyles – is meant to help us forget ourselves and to protect us from vanity, greed, and envy, which are just forms of selfishness. If we have little, and want for little, and we are all equal, we envy no one.

I try to love it.

And from that we get that she’s… teenaged. [Ariel says: I don’t know Matt, most teenagers don’t try to love anything they’re supposed to let alone anything as fucking shitty as Abnegation, which is the worst.]



Caleb and their friends Susan and Robert arrive back home. Susan and Caleb flirt reservedly and awkwardly, and Beatrice and Robert share a knowing glance about the nature of Abnegation 16-year-olds trying to flirt, although I’m pretty sure this can be simplified to “16-year-olds trying to flirt”.

Caleb tries to ask Beatrice why she’s home early, but neither of them want to break the rules and talk about what happened during their tests. During family dinner, Beatrice continues to remind us that being a teenager is super hard.

Other people see [my father] as an opinionated man […] but he’s also loving. I try to see only the good in him; I try.

[Ariel says: Again, I have to defend this because I always got the sense it was more of a genuine feeling of not fitting in where you’re supposed to and feeling out of place even in your own family. To me it doesn’t read like typical teenage angst, Tris isn’t really like that at all throughout the book. It seems more like a legitimate problem of growing up in a family where you don’t quite agree with the religious values that have been imposed on you, but you try really hard to be what your family wants you to be. It’s not like “OMG my parents won’t let me go to partiez it’s so hard being in Abnegation :((” ] 

The parents discuss the rumor that there was a problem with one of the tests, and how unusual that is. Her father admits that he’s being bothered by a tough day at work, and Beatrice offers us some context.

Not the context of “what are the fucking factions, already?”, of course.

Marcus is my father’s coworker; they are both political leaders. The city is ruled by a council of fifty people, composed entirely of representatives from Abnegation

Well, that’s the opposite of what “representation” means, then…

because our faction is regarded as incorruptible, due to our commitment to selflessness.

What about the fucking truth-telling faction, then?! That seems pretty much like the definition of incorruptible!

Her father explains that Jeanine Matthews, the one Erudite representative (who I guess isn’t on the council since we were already explicitly told that’s 100% Abnegation people, so I guess she represents them in some other governing body?), filed a report against Marcus, that his “violence and cruelty towards his son is the reason his son chose Dauntless instead of Abnegation”. [Ariel says: My note in the book from my first reading is “I bet this guy is going to be Super Important to the plot. I WAS CORRECT. Just had to brag.] Her father is clear to voice his opinion that the son’s act of leaving Abnegation was “betrayal”, and mentions that “The Erudite have been attacking us with these reports for months”, in whatever governing body they operate in that we already know doesn’t actually rule over anyone. This is apparently still important, though.

“Valuing knowledge above all else results in a lust for power, and that leads men into dark and empty places. We should be thankful that we know better.”

So it’s pretty obvious by this point that the intellectual faction is the novel’s villain, because I guess it’s impossible to enjoy reading Popular Science without wanting to be evil incarnate.

How Liking Cheese Is Mutually Exclusive With Being Brave, Selfless, And Even The Ability To Tell The Truth!

How Liking Cheese Is Mutually Exclusive With Being Brave, Selfless, And Even The Ability To Tell The Truth!

I nod. I know I will not choose Erudite, even though my test results suggested that I could. I am my father’s daughter.

Oh my god, Beatrice. We get it. You’re divergent. [Ariel says: You’re my girl in this book, Tris, but I will never stop making divergent as fuck jokes about you.]

After dinner – during which Beatrice totally gets in trouble for speaking out of turn because she’s… divergent – her brother, the model Abnegation citizen, gives hear some surprising advice:

“Beatrice,” he says, looking sternly into my eyes. “We should think of our family. There is an edge to his voice. “But. But we must also think of ourselves.”

Whaaaat! Is Caleb not really Abnegation? If only we knew if he liked cheese!

Posted in: Divergent