Insurgent Essay Questions

  1. 1

    In what ways is faction society not as ideal as it was intended to be?

    As readers learn at the very end of Insurgent, the factions were established in order to eliminate the negative, violent, destructive aspects of human nature and create people with values that will prevent society from ever reaching the level of violence it once reached. However, as is evidenced by the war occuring in Insurgent, the factions system has not gotten rid of the flaws in human nature entirely. Erudite's knowledge is still accompanied by greed, Amity's peace still shows traces of complacency, and Dauntless, of course, is still reckless and sometimes violent. There is still a long way to go before humanity can overcome its flaws—perhaps it is not even possible.

  2. 2

    What are the major obstacles in the way of Tris and Tobias's relationship during this novel?

    Both Tris and Tobias are used to keeping their problems and inner thoughts bottled up inside of themselves; they cannot seem to get used to confiding in each other. Both keep secrets from each other, both lie to each other—their intentions are always good, but it puts significant stress on their relationship. Tris and Tobias have to learn to be open and honest with each other if their relationship is to work.

  3. 3

    In what ways does Tris change over the course of the novel? What does she learn?

    Tris unwittingly slips into the role of a leader among her friends, and people consistently look to her for guidance and help with decision-making throughout Insurgent. Tris develops a strong capacity to lead, guide, and make well-informed decisions; on top of that, she learns how to continue functioning in the face of terrible tragedy. By the end of the novel, she also learns to value herself and her life more than she did before. She realizes that death is final, and she is not finished doing what she has to do yet.

  4. 4

    Is Tris a reliable narrator? Why or why not?

    Since this novel is told from a first-person perspective, readers only know as much about the situation going on as Tris does. They see and learn things through her eyes—while this makes it easy to get to really know Tris, it also means readers are subject to her biases. Readers only see her side of the choices she makes, so it is difficult to come to understand Tobias's point of view, for instance, when he decides to ally with his mother and the factionless. 

  5. 5

    Is Jeanine the novel's true antagonist, or will the conflict persist even though she has died? 

    Jeanine is certainly the novel's physical antagonist, since she is the main person working in contrast to Tris's goals. However, in order to see the true antagonist, we need to look at what motivates Jeanine. The conflict in this novel—in the entire trilogy—stems from a desire for control. The faction system was established in order to control human nature. Jeanine stole the important information from Abnegation in order to control who would be exposed to it, and she seeks to control all of faction society herself. Evelyn wants the same thing—the control to mold society into what she wants it to be. Control is at the center of this conflict, and this will not suddenly evaporate because Jeanine has died. 

  6. 6

    Has Marcus changed over the course of the novel? Why or why not?

    It is difficult to say whether or not Marcus feels sorry for the way he treated his son. While it may seem like he is willing to work with Tris, the person his son loves most in the world, this is likely only for his own gain; he needs this information back so he will have control over it, and Tris is the only way he can get it. The way Marcus treated Tobias was a result of his nature, and as readers have seen many times over in this novel, a person's nature is hard to change. 

  7. 7

    Discuss what motivated Caleb's betrayal. Was it selfish, or selfless? Is he truly at fault?

    In his mind, Caleb believed he was doing the right thing—he had sworn an oath of loyalty to his faction, after all, and Jeanine convinced him that hers and Erudite's work was for the greater good. Though the decision rested with him, it is important not to ignore the role Jeanine's manipulation tactics played in his betrayal. This act is like two sides of the same coin; on one hand, it is selfish, because he made the easiest decision and the decision that would protect himself, but on the other it is also selfless, too, because Caleb truly believed that he was doing the best for society, and he had to sacrifice the life of his own sister in order to do it.

  8. 8

    Is Evelyn an antagonist? Why or why not?

    When juxtaposed with Marcus, Evelyn certainly seems like Tobias's better parent. However, she did use him, too; just as a means to an end rather than a punching bag. This does not necessarily make her evil, since she was not ever working against her son. However, it does make her someone to watch out for, and an additional person to add to the list of people Tobias should be wary of trusting. 

  9. 9

    Was Peter's betrayal of Jeanine selfless, or selfish?

    It is easy for readers to believe that Peter only helped Tris live because there was something in it for him, and he did not want to feel like he owed her anymore. Peter himself would even like readers to believe that. However, this was too drastic of a move to not have been motivated by at least a little bit of concern for Tris. If Peter was caught, he would likely face death himself. It is not too far-fetched to believe that Peter feels some sort of kinship to Tris—or at least cares about whether she lives or dies.

  10. 10

    Does Tris truly understand what death means, after nearly dying herself?

    Tobias was right about one thing: throughout most of this novel, Tris did not understand what it really meant to put her life on the line. She believed she was ready for death—her parents had died for her, after all, and she believed herself capable of making the same sacrifice for her friends. However, it is only when Tris is lying on the execution table that she realizes how final death really is. In this moment, she learns that she cannot truly embrace death until she has accomplished all she set out to accomplish. Right now, Tris's role has not been fulfilled. By the end of this novel, Tris understands death enough to respect it—but not to seek it.