The Dauntless Zipline Through Chicago, Because Dauntless: Divergent Chapter 17

Posted on August 8, 2014 by


Guess what? Today we’re reading the one part of the movie I actually really liked! And entirely for reasons that don’t apply to books, so, uh, I have no idea how I feel right now. [Ariel says: How very Divergent of you, Matthew.]

[Ariel says: Also, when I was reading Cosmo the other day, it included an excerpt from the new book from Four’s perspective. It’s one of the scenes where Four yells at Tris because he’s trying to protect her. I didn’t like it.]

Chapter 17

Tris is feeling down in the dumps about that whole “another kid got stabbed in the eye with a butter knife” thing, but the Dauntless-born initiates run into her and take pity on her.

“The only initiates they usually let come are ones with older siblings in Dauntless,” [Uriah] says […] “Just act like you belong.”
“What exactly are we doing?”
“Something dangerous,” he says.

Noooooooooo, Dauntless doing something just because it’s dangerous? Nooooooooo. [Ariel says: I wonder what you do in Dauntless if your toast gets stuck in the toaster. Are you allowed to unplug it or do you have to stick a fork in to get the toast out like you’re playing a really dangerous (Dauntless, if you will) game of Operation?] 

Uriah admits to Tris that none of them actually know where they’re going, because it’s a Dauntless secret. As for just acting like she belongs, everyone immediately notices that Tris is different (not Different, just different this time). This becomes an opportunity to explore the subtleties of Dauntless social dynamics. Haha, just kidding. It becomes an opportunity to focus on the Tris-Four romance.

“I know who you are,” she says. “You’re the Stiff. Four told me about you.”
I pray the heat in my cheeks is not visible. “Oh? What did he say?”
She smirks at me. “He said you were a Stiff.”

Tris casually turns the conversation into one about Four, and the girl mentions that Four helped her practice fighting, which was “nice of him”. [Ariel says: What an unDauntless euphemism!] 

I still feel rattled by what she said, half confused by the idea of Four being “nice” and half wanting to punch her for no apparent reason.

No apparent reason?

hercules won't say i'm in love muses

Tris realizes that the group is going to the John Hancock building (non-Chicago people: the one that’s not the Sears Tower). They get in the elevator, and Tris is kind of a jerk.

“What floor?” the girl with the shaved head says.
“One hundred,” I say.
“How would you know that?” […]
“We’re in a one-hundred-story abandoned building with some Dauntless,” I retort. “Why don’t you know that?”

Except, uh, how would any of them know that? It’s a secret, as Tris has narrated like a hundred times already. Tris?

excuuuuse me princess

Eventually they climb to the top of the Hancock building, which I sort of think I should call Science Bullshit on, but it’s far from my biggest problem with the science in this book, so I’ll let it slide.

At first, all I see is the marsh, wide and brown and everywhere, touching the horizon, devoid of life. In the other direction is the city, and in many ways it is the same, lifeless and with limits I do not know.

Oh, man, that sentence was going so nicely until that last mixed metaphor. I guess Tris tried to have her cake before it hatched. [Ariel says: Did someone say cake? Matt, you know cake can only mean a dramatic revelation is somewhere on the horizon, devoid of life.] 

Attached to one of the poles on top of the tower is a steel cable as thick as my wrist. On the ground is a pile of black slings made of tough fabric, large enough to hold a human being. […] I follow the cable down, over the cluster of buildings and along Lake Shore Drive. I don’t know where it ends. One thing is clear, though: If I go through with this, I’ll find out.
We’re going to slide down a steel cable in a black sling from one thousand feet up.

Is this kind of totally fucking crazy? Why, yes, and here is exactly how crazy:

This map was helpfully created by Side note: HOLY FUCKING SHIT AAAAAAAAAAA

This map was helpfully created by Side note: HOLY FUCKING SHIT AAAAAAAAAAA

[Ariel says: I just want to know which member of Dauntless has the vision to do this? I hope we find out in the next book it was Tris’ mom, and I hope we learn so because she’s eating a piece of chocolate cake as she goes on the zipline.]

And it’s really fucking cool! Because it’s a fantastic visual spectacle of Chicago reimagined as a post-apocalyptic skeleton of its former self, and makes for a beautiful and stunning glimpse at the ghostly vestige of a once-familiar civilization gone by.

But you might realize, “Wait, Matthew. Film is a visual medium and the novel is a text-based medium, so none of the things you just got really excited about are even remotely relevant to what we’re about to go over.” And you would be exactly right. So instead of this:

divergent zipline 1

Or this:

divergent zipline 2

It’s more like this:

south park ziplining

[Ariels says: I haven’t seen the movie yet, but those gifs engaged me more than this part did when I read it.]

Now, that’s not totally fair to the book, since it’s a limitation of the medium, and it’s one of the nice things about the possibility of film adaptation (and in Divergent‘s case, the only nice thing about the film adaptation). So maybe some of Tris’s prose can convey some of the same wonder of- nope, we’re only 40% into the book and I don’t have enough faith to even finish writing that sentence.

Watching Tris fly over the weirdly beautiful ruined city in the movie gave us a chance to really study it, and I was all, “Oohhh what inferences can we make from how Lake Michigan is dried-up farmland now? What do we make of the stripped-apart Hancock building?” But reading Tris describe the same thing in the book is all about how fucking DAUNTLESS she is, and it’s all, “SO WIND! MUCH HIGH! WOW!” And that’s when it even makes sense:

I can imagine, up here, how the marsh looked when it was full of water, like liquid steel as it reflected the color of the sky.

Present day Lake Michigan, apparently

Present day Lake Michigan, apparently

After she soars over Chicago (during which she spends 0% of the time describing her surroundings and 100% of the time explaining her feelings, which I am still kind of sore about) and reaches the end of her ride, I immediately have to call Science Bullshit again.

I hang about twenty feet above the ground […] A crowd of members stands below. They grasp one another’s arms, forming a net of limbs beneath me.

Acceleration of gravity is 32 feet/second^2, so by the bottom of this fall, she’s going 35.8 feet/second, which is 24.4 miles/hour. I think a person smacking your arms at almost 25 miles per hour could be classified as “not the best way to do things”.

Tris enjoyed her zipline experience, impressing the Dauntless-born initiates, but causing a bit of a riff amongst her friends when they get back and she’s obviously been having fun in Not-Where-A-Kid-Just-Got-Stabbed-In-The-Eye Land (which is apparently the North Side, which sounds about right).

Tris tries to play it off like it was no big deal (although she doesn’t mention exactly what they were doing), and the conversation fortunately shifts to “hey, don’t forget this book is about society splitting into Factions to end conflict because lol seriously that’s what we went with”:

“Well, you missed Christina almost punching an Erudite,” says Al. […] “He was here asking for opinions about the Abnegation leadership” […]
“Yeah,” she says. “While you were off having fun, I was doing the dirty work of defending your old faction, eliminating interfaction conflict…”

Unfazed by the obviously impending doom, Tris ends the chapter by dwelling on more important matters:

I look over Will’s shoulder at the members, who are now flicking bits of food at one another with their forks.
It’s the first time I have been really eager to be one of them.

Who among us cannot list food fights as their favorite form of social interaction?

Posted in: Divergent