More Metaphors Explained: Divergent Chapters 29 & 30

Posted on September 11, 2014 by


When we last left off, Tris had just met the evil villain who is evil for some reason. She’s super annoying.

Chapter 29

But now it’s time to take a break from worrying about villains to worry about Dauntless initiation! Oh the stress of it all.

In case you had any doubts, Dauntless initiation is not like Abnegation initiation. Because a lot of people reading this book probably hadn’t gotten the point that each faction is Different.

One of the older members reads the Abnegation manifesto, which is a short paragraph about forgetting the self and the dangers of self-involvement. Then all the older members wash the initiates’ feet. Then they all share a meal, each person serving food to the person on his left.

The Dauntless don’t do that.

Orly, Tris? Thank you for that much-needed clarification. I would have just assumed that feet washing was an integral part of any initiation. I mean, you can’t spell initiation without feet washing. I’m totally down with the food sharing, though.

The Dauntless of course get wasted. I’m only surprised they didn’t incorporate jumping from random heights as well. I mean where are the trains? Come on. [Matthew says: This actually seems sort of tame for the Dauntless. We’ve already seen Four and his friends get drunk with no particular fanfare. Maybe initiation is when they break out the everclear and peach schnaps.]

The dormitory, at least, is quiet. I stare at my plate of food. I just grabbed what looked good to me at the time, and now that I take a closer look, I realize that I chose a plain chicken breast, a scoop of peas, and a piece of brown bread. Abnegation food.

I’m genuinely shocked Abnegation doesn’t just eat oatmeal at every meal. Eating something as colorful as green peas is surely a distraction from doing selfless things! [Matthew says: This sounds like Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for peas!]

Tris starts thinking about how naturally being in Abnegation comes to her, which contradicts everything she’s previously said about Abnegation, specifically why she left. Of course she’d have some habits from growing up in Abnegation, but Tris constantly points out to us how often it isn’t her first instinct to act all Abnegation. [Matthew says: Tris is so Divergent, even her character motivation is Divergent.]

It’s now time for the initiates to face their final fear landscape. I’ll believe this is the final fear landscape when this series is over.

The room is large and contains another screen, similar to the one outside. A line of people sit in chairs in front of it. Eric is one of them, and so is Max. The others are also older. Judging by the wires connected to their heads, and their blank eyes, they are observing the simulation.

No one else can see the simulation but these judges. This reads like a twisted version of American Idol or every other singing competition ever. Seriously, name as many of these as you can in the comments below off memory and not from using Google. Eric is sooo Paula Abdul.

Chapter 30

It’s Tris turn in the fear landscape!

I step into the room, armed not with a gun or a knife, but with the plan I made the night before. Tobias said that stage three is about mental preparation—coming up with strategies to overcome my fears.

Why in the fuck would Tris have been armed with a gun or knife for this? It’s all in her head, what good would waving a knife around do? In fact, that would actually be far more dangerous than any fear landscape! [Matthew says: See, this is what happens when a book holds the reader’s hand through every single metaphor. Even we get confused by a metaphor as basic as figurative language. Speaking of metaphors…]


Guess what, Tris was never actually afraid of crows. It was about…control….

What combats powerlessness? Power. And the first time I felt powerful in the Dauntless compound was when I was holding a gun.

A lump forms in my throat and I want the talons off. The bird squawks and my stomach clenches, but then I feel something hard and metal in the grass. My gun.

I point the gun at the bird on my shoulder, and it detaches from my shirt in an explosion of blood and feathers.

Tris is basically playing Duck Hunt to combat her fear landscape, and it sounds really fun. I mean, it sounds horrible because she’s shooting actual birds, but I really love me some good old fashioned Duck Hunt. [Matthew says: So, basically, learning to overcome your fears means pretending really hard you have a weapon, so you can murder your fears. Someone please tell me what the shit this book is about. I’m really fucking lost.]

Remember when Tris was stuck in the glass box and drowning in front of her friends? It wasn’t about drowning. 

The tank again. I am not afraid of drowning. This is not about the water; it is about my inability to escape the tank. It is about weakness. I just have to convince myself that I am strong enough to break the glass.

This seems like it’s equally about not being in control. What if Tris WAS just afraid of drowning or of being attacked by birds? Why do they all have to be metaphors? [Matthew says: How is “inability to escape the tank” not ALSO a metaphor? Is Tris that much more likely to find herself trapped in a tank than she is a body of water?]

After Tris breaks out of the glass box, she’s suddenly in a large body of water trying not to drown again…and again it’s actually a metaphor for being out of control.

I must not really be afraid of the water. I must be afraid of being out of control. To face it, I have to regain control.

Why even have this fear in the first place if she was already trying not to drown in the previous scene. It’s not even like it symbolised a different fear!

Tris then is being burned alive by the other initiates. No mention of a metaphor is made, so I guess she’s finally just afraid of being burned alive by the others.

Peter: Do you smell that, Tris? That’s your burning flesh.

Tris: Know what I smell?

[Matthew says: ]

[Matthew says: Brain simulations… guns materializing from nothing… Tris knows kung fu…]

Well, you’re all wrong because Tris smells THE RAIN. Unlike Adele, Tris proceeds to set rain to the fire.

Tris’ next fear is more legitimately creepy. Back in her childhood room, this happens:

I look at the reflection in the mirror: my wide eyes, the bed with the gray sheets pulled taut, the dresser that holds my clothes, the bookcase, the bare walls. My eyes skip to the window behind me.

And to the man standing just outside.

Cold drops down my spine like a bead of sweat, and my body goes rigid. I recognize him. He is the man with the scarred face from the aptitude test. He wears black and he stands still as a statue. I blink, and two men appear at his left and right, just as still as he is, but their faces are featureless—skin-covered skulls.

I whip my body around, and they stand in my room. I press my shoulders to the mirror.
For a moment, the room is silent, and then fists pound against my window, not just two or four or six, but dozens of fists with dozens of fingers, slamming into the glass.

Do you guys think that everyone recognises the same man from the aptitude test? And if so, does this mean he’s based on a real person that was designed to be in the aptitude test? I bet if he’s real, he’s really uncomfortable by his level of fame. He’s just a quiet family man who doesn’t like the limelight. [Matthew says: How much do you want to bet that, like most things in Divergent, this is a promising mystery that will have an incredibly unsatisfying answer. I don’t even remember who specifically this guy is from the aptitude test, and that’s why you don’t immediately throw metaphors at the reader before you give any context for them!]

Tris grabs a gun and tries to shoot the man, but to no avail. In fact, things just get worse:

Pale bodies—human bodies, but mangled, arms bent at odd angles, too-wide mouths with needle teeth, empty eye sockets—topple into my bedroom, one after the other, and scramble to their feet, scramble toward me.

I feel like this is as close to a zombie apocalypse that we’re ever going to get from one of these books.

But Tris’s next fear is the best one by far. Tris is suddenly with Tobias. BUT WHAT YOU SAY!?!

But I’m not afraid of Tobias. I look over my shoulder. Maybe there’s something behind me that I’m supposed to focus on. But no—behind me is just a four-poster bed.

A bed?

Tobias walks toward me, slowly.

What’s going on?

I know this shouldn’t be so funny because it sounds like he’s about to rape her, but I was expecting Tris to be like, “Tobias must be a metaphor for control again because I’m soooo scared of sex/I’m sooooo scared of love.” But actually she’s just scared of sex. This leads me to wonder if most male initiates are scared of not being able to get it up and whether this is a almost permanent fixture in their fear landscapes.

My fear is being with him. I have been wary of affection all my life, but I didn’t know how deep that wariness went.

But this obstacle doesn’t feel the same as the others. It is a different kind of fear—nervous panic rather than blind terror.

Other than to use this as a way to have the reader understand Tris better by telling rather than showing, I don’t really understand how it made it into the fear landscape. If fears can be this arbitrary, my fear landscape would consist of things like missing the bus or being late for work. This doesn’t seem like it meets the criteria. [Matthew says: Since when is Tris “wary of affection all my life”? Hasn’t a major theme of the book been, “FRIENDS. I FINALLY HAVE FRIENDS.”? And if she didn’t know that she was even afraid of this, then what’s stopping the fear landscape simulation from giving everybody fears of, oh, say, an asteroid hitting the earth, or the fall of Western civilization, or the dwindling supply of nonrenewable resources, or the existential panic of realizing you’ve lived an unfulfilled life, or-]

I look Simulation Tobias in the eye and say sternly, “I am not going to sleep with you in a hallucination. Okay?

You can just imagine idiotic opponents of “Yes means Yes” being like, “But this is opening up a whole can of worms because what if I sleep with her in a hallucination? Can she consent if it’s a hallucination? Man, I don’t want to go to prison cause of a fear landscape.” [Matthew says: If this technology exists, I find it very hard to believe there isn’t a seedy, underground sexual fantasy simulation drug market going on.]

I laugh into my hand until my face gets hot. I must be the only initiate with this fear.

Wouldn’t it be hysterical if like one in every 5 initiates had this same fear? I bet Tris would feel pretty dumb then. [Matthew says: Does, uh, anybody else think it’s kind of super fucked up that Tris’s reaction to a sexual assault fear simulation is laughter?]

The last fear is that Tris is being forced by Janine to kill her parents. Given Eric is working with Janine, wouldn’t he find this fear really fucking weird/suspicious?

Instead of killing her family, Tris points the gun at herself and shoots, thus ending her fear landscape with a literal bang. Well, as literal as you can get in a hallucination. [Matthew says: And thus utterly destroying what shaky understanding we even had of what “success” meant in a fear simulation.]

I again issue my challenge to you to name every singing competition with a panel of judges. Hell, name any reality show with a panel of judged (so this includes Top Model for instance.)

Posted in: Divergent