Tobias returns to Dauntless headquarters to go through his fear landscape one final time before departing the city. It has changed – now containing a different set of 4 fears – the fear of heights, enclosed spaces, becoming like his father and watching hopelessly as Tris dies before his eyes. He leaves with finality, knowing there is no longer a “need to relive my fears anymore,” only to “try to overcome them” (74). Tobias then breaks Caleb out of his cell. He easily gets past factionless guards, making it seem to a woman named Drea that he is taking Caleb away secretly to be executed. He meets Zeke at the bottom of an emergency exit stairwell, where Tobias promises his friend that he’ll look after Uriah (Zeke’s younger brother) outside the city. Caleb and Tobias then jump into a train car, joining Tris and the others for their journey out of the city. Tris mentions that she’s “really going to miss this place,” but Tobias disagrees, relieved to leave behind “too many bad memories” (86).
The group leaving the city – Tris, Tobias, Uriah, Christina, Peter, Cara, Tori, and Caleb – get off the train and begin walking toward the rendezvous point where they are supposed to meet the Amity trucks they will use to exit the city. Gunshots break the silence, and the small group scatters, running into the night. Only Tori is killed; Tris kills the woman who shot her. A bullet grazes Tobias’s arm, and Tris’s relief at finding him alive is palpable. The remaining rebels ride in trucks to the outer limit of the city. Once they reach it, Tris asks if anyone has ever been beyond this point. Johanna tells the group about the serums of each faction – “the Dauntless serum gives hallucinated realities, Candor’s gives the truth, Amity’s gives peace, Erudite’s gives death, and Abnegation’s resets memory” (100). Tobias is disgusted by the knowledge that anyone who went past the city limits had their memories erased. He knows something is inherently wrong with taking a person’s memories.
After Johanna leaves with the trucks, Tris and her friends are alone in an alien world with polished train tracks, foreign luxury goods on billboards, and many other things they had never seen before. A car approaches, and a man named Amar and a woman named Zoe get out, saying that they work for the same organization that founded the city. Tobias cannot believe it, as Amar was his initiation instructor in Dauntless. Amar had died years ago because he was Divergent. Zoe somehow knows Tris’s name, and she shows Tris a photograph of a group of people that includes her mother. Tris cannot help but hope that all her loved ones that had died might still be alive somewhere, just like Amar.
The rebels from the city decide to trust Zoe and Amar, getting in the back of their truck. They are brought to a high-security building labeled the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. Zoe tries to explain everything: that the compound used to be an airport, that the Bureau is an agency of the United States, that the compound was formed so that the Bureau could oversee the experiments from a distance. Most of what Zoe says makes no sense to the group from the city, as they have no idea what air travel is, or what the United States are. The group is forced to give up their weapons and go through a security checkpoint before entering the compound. They are brought to what looks like a control room, where they meet a man named David, the leader of the Bureau.
David tries to explain everything to Tris and her friends, but it is too much information for any of them to truly process. He tells them that, long ago, the United States government became interested in negating certain genetic predispositions toward undesirable traits in its citizens. These traits – “fear, low intelligence, dishonesty, aggression, selfishness” (123) – were what ultimately led to everything that was bad in society. The government began to try to correct these negative qualities via genetic manipulation; however, the alterations had disastrous consequences when they took effect, resulting in damaged genes. Tris draws the connection to the factions quickly – when each faction gains the virtue it most admires, it simultaneously loses something. “The Dauntless were brave but cruel; the Erudite, intelligent but vain; the Amity, peaceful but passive; the Candor, honest but inconsiderate; the Abnegation, selfless but stifling” (123). Turning off certain bad genes (like what the factions aimed to do behaviorally) only manifested new problems. A civil war, termed the Purity War, broke out, pitting those with damaged genes against the government and everyone with pure genes. The city that Tris and Tobias came from is one of many experiments aimed toward genetic healing, to reinstate humanity’s state of genetic purity. Genetically healed humans were termed Divergent. The factions were the Bureau’s way of adding a behavioral modification element to the experiments.
David then shows the group how they monitor the experiments – with video footage of the entire city. The city inhabitants are brought to a place where they can sleep, but Tris follows David and asks him about her mother. He tells her that she had been part of the Bureau and had voluntarily entered the city. When the group is alone, it is clear that none of them are coping well with all of this new information. Tobias struggles with the idea that their entire world was a lie. Tris is disgusted by the thought that the Bureau members could watch so much death and destruction and do nothing to stop it.
Tobias is restless and wakes in the middle of the night. He roams the hallways of the compound alone, until he meets Amar. Amar gives him an explanation of why he is not dead – the Erudite had started killing the Divergent, and the Bureau had faked some of their deaths in order to save as many as they could. Amar, one of these faked deaths, has been working in security for the compound ever since.
Tris examines a sculpture that Zoe tells her is the symbol of the Bureau’s patient approach to healing genetic damage. She is told that David would like to speak to her, that he has something of her mother’s. Tris is brought deep into the compound, where she meets a man named Matthew. David asks Matthew to put Natalie Wright’s (Tris’s mother’s real name) file on a tablet for Tris. He then tells Tris more about how her mother ended up in the experiment in Chicago. She was located by the Bureau “inside the damaged world, and her genes were nearly perfect” (153). After several years in the compound, a crisis occurred in the city, when the Erudite leader (Norton, Jeanine’s predecessor) was starting to kill the Divergent. She entered the city to stop the deaths.
Tori’s younger brother, George, comes to the dormitory, only to have his hopes of seeing his sister crushed when Tobias tells him she was killed during their escape from the city. Tobias and Tris are then taken deep into the labs of the compound to undergo genetic testing with Matthew. The two are anomalies because of Tris’s exceptional serum resistance and Tobias’s only manifesting certain Divergent characteristics. They meet a lab technician named Nita, who runs their tests for them. Upon examination of their DNA, Matthew tells them that Tris is indeed Divergent (possessing healed genes), while Tobias is not. Matthew tells him that “your genes are still damaged, but you have a genetic anomaly that allows you to be aware during simulations” (176). This news crushes Tobias, despite Tris’s reassurances.
The group from the city is brought on an airplane for the first time – except Tobias, who is nowhere to be found. Tris marvels in the experience, but then returns to the dormitory to read the first entry in her mother’s journal. Her mother grew up in one of the cities – Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her mother had gotten into a fight with her father, which resulted in her father’s death. Unable to bear that place any longer, her mother had left home and gone to the fringe, the postwar wreckage between cities. Before the Bureau found her and her genes were tested and found to be pure, she accidentally killed a man to protect a child. The chapter ends with Caleb asking Tris if she’ll ever talk to him again. She doesn’t answer – not after he deserted her and allowed her to nearly die in Erudite.
The first of many tragedies that strike close to home for Tris occurs in this section. Tori dies – the woman who administered her aptitude test many years ago, the woman that hid Tris’s Divergence so that she might survive. Her death is made ironic when the group finds that her brother, George, whom Tori had thought was dead, is at the Bureau. Tori could have found a happy ending outside the city, reuniting with her lost brother, but instead she is killed on their way out of the city.
At this point, a reader would think that Tris is so used to her friends and family dying that it doesn’t affect her anymore. She had already lived through the deaths of both of her parents, her friend Will, and many other Dauntless and Abnegation that she had known. Yet Tris is anything but desensitized to death. She stops abruptly when she sees Tori drop dead. All of the others in the group scatter, running from bullet wounds, but Tris can’t move momentarily. Another friend had been ripped away from her. Shaken though she is, she is able to move forward, running to the rendezvous point to meet the rest of the group. This speaks to Tris’s character – she is strong but vulnerable. She reacts to death more strongly than many of her comrades, simply because she is so compassionate, but she doesn’t let this debilitate her.
Interestingly, Johanna’s description of the serums of each faction (the first time that the characters are told about the memory serum) seems to be an example of foreshadowing. Tobias expresses disgust at the thought of wiping someone’s memory with the memory serum. This exact thought is what will eventually drive Tobias and Tris to enact a plan to undermine the Bureau at the end of the story. The use of this weapon of the Abnegation (and eventually the Bureau) represents something that Tris and her friends cannot accept. It is present throughout the story, serving a causal role for much of what happens.
The context that David gives to the group from the city about the government’s genetic manipulation experiments, the Purity War, and the experiments is almost too much for a reader to comprehend upon first read. One can only imagine how perplexing all of this information would be for Tris and Tobias. Their narration understates how overwhelmed they feel in response to what David reveals to them. Only later will the true effects of what they are told be seen, when they struggle to find a new identity now that their old one has been ripped away from them (and deemed a lie).
David is introduced as a character in this section of the novel. He will eventually become the major antagonist, yet he is presented as good-hearted and rational in these chapters. He is a scientist, the leader of the Bureau, working simply to cure genetic damage. It makes perfect sense to the reader, yet traces of his flaws can be seen even this early in the story. He speaks of the city experiments as if they don’t really matter to them. The factions are merely a behavioral component to curing genes. The people in the experiments are subjects aimed only to serve a purpose. Already, there is not even a trace of sympathy or compassion toward the city-dwellers in David’s presentation to Tris and Tobias and their friends. Though subtly, he is already being set up as the antagonist of the story.