Beatrice waits on her front step for Caleb to arrive, and eventually he does with the neighbors, Susan and Robert Black, in tow. Caleb senses immediately that something is wrong; Beatrice insists that she got sick after the aptitude test and went home early. Susan and Robert are convinced, but Caleb isn't; after a little bit of tentative flirting with Susan, he asks Beatrice to tell him the truth. She refuses, and asks if he'd bend the rules to tell her what happened in his test. Obviously he refuses as well. They cook dinner together until their parents come home, and Natalie Prior says she heard something went wrong with one of the tests and the results had to be reported verbally. Caleb and Beatrice deny hearing anything about this.
Something is clearly bothering their father, and he finally tells them that Marcus, one of his colleagues, had a difficult day at work. Andrew Prior is a political leader - all of the city's political leaders come from Abnegation. Jeanine Matthews, the sole Erudite representative on the council, wrote a report attacking Marcus's character. She claimed that Marcus was violent towards his son, which caused the boy to switch from Abnegation to Dauntless. It is very rare for anyone to switch out of Abnegation, so Marcus's son is well remembered.
Neither Prior parent believes Marcus was violent; they insist that his son's transfer was a betrayal, and nothing else. The Erudite have been attacking Abnegation with reports like this for months. Andrew believes the Erudite lust after the power Abnegation has as the seat of political influence. Due to the simmering tensions between the factions, Beatrice notes that despite her aptitude test, she will not choose Erudite.
Climbing the stairs to their rooms, Caleb tells Beatrice that they do have to think of their family, but they must also think of themselves.
The Choosing Ceremony arrives, and Beatrice takes note of the homogeny within the members of Abnegation and finds it somewhat comforting. The Abnegation ascend twenty fights of stairs, giving up their place in the elevators to the Amity. The responsibility to conduct the Choosing Ceremony rotates each year, and this year it falls to Abnegation. Marcus leads the ceremony and reads the names of the children who will choose in reverse alphabetical order.
There are five large metal bowls in the room, each containing a substance that represents a faction. Abnegation's holds gray stones, Erudite's holds water, Amity's holds earth, Dauntless's holds lit coals, and Candor's holds glass. When someone chooses, she must use a knife to cut into her hand and sprinkle blood into the faction bowl of her choice. Before the choosing begins, Caleb and Beatrice say goodbye to their parents; Mrs. Prior whispers, "I love you. No matter what," in Beatrice's ear.
Marcus recites the history of the factions; long ago, people who blamed the trouble in the world on the faults in human personalities formed the factions as a way of reforming themselves. Those who blamed aggression formed Amity, those who blamed ignorance formed Erudite, those who blamed duplicity formed Candor, those who blamed selfishness formed Abnegation, and those who blamed cowardice formed Dauntless. He insists that without the factions, mankind would not survive. Then one by one, the children begin choosing. Most people seem to be choosing their home faction, but a boy named James Tucker is the first to transfer, from Dauntless to Candor. Beatrice notes that he will be considered a traitor.
It's Caleb's turn, and Beatrice watches in shock as her brother chooses Erudite. She realizes that when he told her to think of herself, he was planning on taking his own advice, too. The Erudite are smug, but the Abnegation are horrified. Then it's Beatrice's turn, and she's sure she will choose Abnegation, but then she realizes that if Caleb wasn't fit for a selfless life, then how could she be? In a final decision, she slices her hand with the knife and her blood drips onto the coals. Dauntless.
Beatrice's father glares at her in accusation, but her mother smiles. Caleb appears to be having an easy time with this, which she takes as a betrayal. Dauntless is the first to leave, running down the stairs in a wild frenzy, and their first task as initiates is to jump onto a moving train. Beatrice has a lot of trouble at first, but finally a Candor transfer reaches out to help her. She watches as a boy doesn't make it onto the train; he has already failed initiation, and is now factionless. The Candor girl introduces herself as Christina, and as they ride the train to Dauntless headquarters, Beatrice wonders how she didn't notice that Caleb was leaning towards Erudite all along.
The Dauntless initiates have to jump off the train onto a rooftop seven stores high. Missing the jump would mean falling to one's death. An Amity boy refuses to jump; he would rather be factionless than dead, but Beatrice disagrees. Christina and Beatrice jump hand in hand and make it; most of the others do, but a Dauntless-born girl falls to her death. Her sister has little time to mourn. Beatrice worries about surviving initiation.
A Dauntless leader named Max greets them and informs them that to enter the Dauntless compound, they must jump off the building. Everyone else is reluctant to go first, but Beatrice steps up and without thinking too much, jumps. A net catches her and a young man reaches out a hand to help her up. She notes his deep, dark blue eyes.
A Dauntless girl nearby remarks that she can't believe a Stiff was the first to jump, and then the young man asks her name - telling her to think about it, because she doesn't get to pick again. Finally she settles on "Tris". The man, known as Four, welcomes her to Dauntless.
At the Choosing Ceremony, both Tris and Caleb were forced to choose the type of person they wanted to be; not an easy task, but one that was necessary for them to continue forward in this society. This choice will form their identity, and neither wants to be identified as the selfless and unassuming Abnegation they were for sixteen years of their lives. They both realize that in order to discover who they truly are, they have to leave their family behind. In an amplified way, this mirrors the choice every young adult must make when they leave adolescence. Even in a fantasy novel, the theme of adulthood looms large.
It is interesting to note that while both siblings chose to transfer, neither informed the other of their plans; in Tris's case, she assumed Caleb would never think of transferring from Abnegation, but what about Caleb? He clearly knew something was going on in Tris's mind when he told her she had to think of herself, so why didn't he say he was experiencing the same conflict? Did he not trust her enough to keep it to herself? Or is it just too risky as an Abnegation to talk about switching to Erudite? This says something about both Caleb's character and the nature of the feud between Abnegation and Erudite; both are more complex than we realize. This also communicates an inherent flaw in the society's design. The test results are meant to be secret, the first step towards indoctrinating the initiates into this society - a society ruled by "faction before blood". This sentiment is meant to strengthen the bonds within the factions, but often comes at the cost of one's familial ties. This idea will become fleshed out in later chapters.
In these chapters, Tris's character develops more as she begins to discover her true identity. The bravery required to leave her faction and switch to Dauntless is the first sign that she made the right decision, but she still has a lot more to prove. Her characterization continues to show through the various tasks she has to do before she even reaches the compound; jump onto the train, jump onto the building, and in particular, jump off of the building. That Tris was the first to do so speaks volumes about her determination and drive, and the reaction of the Dauntless at the bottom foreshadows that during initiation, Tris will be one to watch out for.
Then there's her decision to change her name: a name is the most central part of a person's identity, and most people typically do not get the luxury of choosing it for themselves. The name her parents chose for her, Beatrice, certainly suited her for the first phase of her life, but a modest and traditional name cannot continue to represent her as she moves into her new life in Dauntless. Because a name symbolizes identity more so than anything else, by choosing her own name, Tris chose her own identity—and it will be up to her to live up to it. Again, this idea of changing one's name signals the weakening of the family bond.
It is also necessary to take notice of the exchange between the initiates and the Amity boy, who says he won't jump because he would rather be factionless than dead. Tris disagrees, and this simple thought illustrates how ingrained the faction system is in these children; they are nothing without their faction. Faction before blood, plain and simple. Faction before everything. Are the factionless really as poor and misguided as Tris makes them out to be, or is that idea simply a way of brainwashing citizens into staying completely loyal to their factions - and to the system itself?
Lastly, Chapter 4 establishes the book's overarching villain - Jeanine Matthews. Whether or not what she says about Marcus Eaton is true, it's pretty clear that she's tying to stir up trouble and dissent between Abnegation and the other factions. Erudite's status as a faction of geniuses is used to gain power by spreading opinion - or propaganda - throughout the city. The truth is beside the point. The rift between the two factions is part of her larger plan, which will come to pass later in the novel.