"I tick off each quality in my mind as he says it -- fear, low intelligence, dishonesty, aggression, selfishness. He [David] is talking about the factions. And he's right to say that every faction loses something when it gains a virtue: the Dauntless, brave but cruel; the Erudite, intelligent but vain; the Amity, peaceful but passive; the Candor, honest but inconsiderate; the Abnegation, selfless but stifling."
This quote occurs when Tris and her friends first leave the city and enter the compound. David is in the midst of explaining the origin of the city experiments. The genetic manipulations which the government thought would cure bad behavior in humans (eventually leading to a world without war or depravity) really only led to damaged genes. When the government tried to remove a bad trait genetically (thereby curing that trait), it really only created a new problem.
Tris realizes that the same thing happened in the city, with the factions. Each faction, by emphasizing its character trait of choice more than any other, created a group of people with a new negative trait. She realizes what David is trying to tell them, that taking away a bad trait (just as the Erudite try to take away low intelligence) is not the same as making someone a better person. Human personality is very complex in that it cannot be manipulated as easily as one might guess.
The only way that Tris finds it possible to understand everything that David is telling them about the city experiments is by relating it to her former way of life in the factions. It makes sense, because the factions are what they know. Genetic manipulation and experimentation -- the rest of what David is telling the group -- is all background noise to Tris. She only comprehends information if it can be related to her world.
"The only problem is that at my Choosing Ceremony next year I'll have to join Erudite, because that's where the killer is, and I'm not sure I'm smart enough to make it through initiation. David said it doesn't matter, he can alter my results, but that feels wrong. Even if the Bureau thinks the factions don't mean anything, that they're just a kind of behavioral modification that will help with the damage, those people believe they do, and it feels wrong to play with their system."
This quote represents how Natalie Wright, Tris's mother, thought differently than any of the other scientists/leaders in the Bureau. The Bureau leaders, like David, thought of the people in the city as containers of genetic information. They were merely test subjects, only notable for their capacity to procreate healed genes. Furthermore, the world that these people live in is only an experiment to the Bureau leaders. It doesn't really matter, not in the grand scheme of things. The Bureau can manipulate their world however they want, for the good of science.
Natalie Wright, on the other hand, sympathizes with the people in the Chicago experiment. She sees them as humans, just like herself. She doesn't feel comfortable 'playing with their system' as the Bureau leaders so often do. Tris appreciates her mother's capacity to understand the people in the city; she is happy that her mother wasn't brainwashed by David and the rest of the Bureau leaders.
Though Tris's mother was raised in the Bureau, once she entered the city, she started to make her own decisions. It's as if she came of age, or grew up, upon entering the Chicago experiment.
"'It seems there's no escaping the reach of genetic damage. Even the Abnegation leadership was poisoned by it.... A man surrounded by genetic damage cannot help but mimic it with his own behavior."
Zoe attributes Marcus's abusive tendencies to genetic damage. When Tris points out that he is Divergent, that he possesses healed genes and not damaged ones, Zoe then attributes the bad behavior to him being surrounded by people with damaged genes. Zoe's argument doesn't make sense to Tris -- she doesn't believe it. The flaw in her argument is that every individual in the city was surrounded by people with damaged genes, but that did not mean that every person exhibited terrible behavior. Steadfast in her own judgments and reasoning, Tris refuses to believe everything the Bureau tells her about genetic damage.
The fact of the matter is, though, that Tris doesn't know the true effects of genetic damage. She is uncertain, and she only has her own judgments and faith in the goodness of the human race to keep her from blaming genetic damage for all of the world's problems. Her resolve and steadfastness to her beliefs shines through in her conversation with Zoe.
"It seems like the rebellions never stop, in the city, in the compound, anywhere. There are just breaths between them, and foolishly, we call those breaths 'peace'."
Tobias watches as Johanna forges an alliance with Marcus, so that his leadership and following will bolster the ranks and strength of the Allegiant. After only a brief lapse in fighting since the overthrow of the Erudite and the faction system, the city is headed toward another all-out rebellion. It's only a matter of time before the Allegiant attack Evelyn and her factionless army.
Tobias marvels constantly at the insignificance of their life in the city. But now that he knows the truth about the city, the thought of another rebellion sickens him. Coupled with these tense feelings, he is forced to watch his abusive father and the mother who abandoned him on television screens from afar.
On top of all of this, Tobias and his friends must watch from afar while their city and home moves closer and closer to utter destruction. It's impossible to not feel guilty for leaving the city. They could stop this rebellion if they reentered the city.
"'If we are going to win this fight against genetic damage, if we are going to save the experiments from being shut down, we will need to make sacrifices. You understand that, don't you [Tris]?'"
David invites Tris to be a Bureau leader-in-training shortly after she saves his life during Nita's attempt to break into the Weapons Lab and steal the death serum. Tris was prepared to sacrifice David's life, so long as Nita and her allies from the fringe did not get the death serum. It just so happened that David survived. David believes that Tris acted to attempt to save the compound. With this line of thinking, it makes sense that he would think Tris would similarly do anything to keep the city experiments from being shut down. Tris accepts the invitation to become a leader-in-training, knowing that she needs to become closer to her enemy if she is going to defeat him.
It disgusts Tris that David thinks almost nothing of "making sacrifices to save the experiments." These sacrifices will affect the people she loves, the people that David and the Bureau do not care about. Tris will not allow their memories to be reset, or for death serum to be released, killing thousands in the city. She doesn't trust David, nor does she want to be a leader of the Bureau, but she is glad that he trusts her.
"I feel sick with anger. That they want to stop a revolution, not to save lives, but to save their precious experiment, would be enough. But why do they believe they have the right to rip people's memories, their identities, out of their heads, just because it's convenient for them?
But of course, I know the answer to that question. To them, the people in our city are just containers of genetic material -- just GDs, valuable for the corrected genes they pass on, and not for the brains in their heads or the hearts in their chests."
These thoughts run through Tris's head immediately after she first hears that the council is planning to reset the memories of everyone in the Chicago experiment. Of course, Tris thinks that the use of the memory serum on a person is nearly as bad as the use of the death serum. Wiping away someone's memories, as if they never lived, is almost worse than ceasing to live entirely. For some reason, the leaders of the Bureau don't understand the implications of the memory serum. They don't put themselves in the experiment subjects' shoes, nor do they have loved ones in the experiment like Tris does. As Tris says, the individuals in the city experiment don't matter to the Bureau, and this is the biggest wrong the Bureau commits, simply in its mindset.
"We reach the place where the outside world ends and the experiment begins, as abrupt a shift as if someone had drawn a line in the ground. Amar drives over that line like it isn't there. For him, I suppose, it has faded with time, as he grows more and more used to his new world. For me, it feels like driving from truth into a lie, from adulthood into childhood."
As Christina, Tobias, Peter, and Amar drive from the compound back into the city, Tobias thinks about how much has changed since he left the city. He is reentering the city -- a place that used to be his reality, which he now knows is nothing but a lie. He realizes that even though he spent a lot more than just his childhood in the city, the discovery of the truth is what really marked his transition into adulthood. Since leaving the city, he has had to come to terms with the knowledge that the Bureau designed the city simply as an experiment to cure damaged genes, that he is not actually Divergent, and that he has damaged genes. He has come so far, accepting his supposed genetic limitations and growing as a person in the process, and this reentry into the city is almost overwhelming for Tobias.
"He is a part of me, always will be, and I am a part of him, too. I don't belong to Abnegation, or Dauntless, or even the Divergent. I don't belong to the Bureau or the experiment or the fringe. I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me -- they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could."
In the seconds in which Tris decides to sacrifice herself so that Caleb doesn't have to enter the Weapons Lab to set off the memory reset of the Bureau, she has these thoughts. She realizes that she cannot deliver her brother to his execution, even if he almost did just that to her in the Erudite compound when he was a lackey to Jeanine Matthews. She realizes that his guilt over his past decisions should not be the impetus behind his sacrifice. She realizes that none of the terms with which she has come to identify (Divergent, Dauntless, etc.) matter: that all that matters in the grand scheme of things is love, her friends, and her loyalty to both.
She knows that she has a better chance of surviving the death serum than Caleb does, and she knows that she still loves Caleb. The decision is simple: she has to go into the Weapons Lab in Caleb's place. Despite everything that she has learned since coming to the Bureau, Tris has nothing to lean on but her family and friends. Her love for these individuals shines through until her very last breaths, as she sacrifices herself so that her brother may live.
"'She [my mother] taught me all about real sacrifice. That is should be done from love, not misplaced disgust for another person's genetics. That it should be done from necessity, not without exhausting all other options. That it should be done for people who need your strength because they don't have enough of their own. That's why I need to stop you from 'sacrificing' all those people and their memories. Why I need to rid the world of you once and for all.'"
Tris says this to David in the Weapons Lab. She is stalling, so that she will be able to set off the memory reset in the compound. She brings up her mother because she knows that David was in love with her, and that her mother chose the city and her father over David. It hits a soft spot for David, because he doesn't shoot her (yet). She tells him what she's been thinking ever since he took her under his wing as a leader-in-training of the Bureau. She tells him how wrongly he views sacrifice: that the sacrifices he makes aren't real sacrifice, and are instead just evil. He forces the people in the experiments to make the sacrifice of having their memories reset. David doesn't sacrifice, nor does he feel pain or guilt. He says he makes sacrifices, but they only affect others. This is why Tris knows she must set off the memory reset: none of this can continue.
"There are so many ways to brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have every loved, for the sake of something greater.
But sometimes it doesn't.
Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.
That is the sort of bravery I must have now."
Tris is dead. Tobias is lonely and lost for what to do in the world without her in it. The story ends with Tobias's thoughts, as he ponders what it really means to be brave. Tobias, on the verge of injecting himself with the memory serum, feeling that there is absolutely no purpose to his life anymore, cannot think of bravery like he used to. He is no longer the man that would obsess over his fear landscape -- trying again and again to conquer his four fears. He is now heartbroken, struggling to live without the woman whom he came to love so dearly. These final words look back on what it means to be Dauntless, pondering what it means to be brave, as Tobias decides to keep living, just focusing on surviving one day at a time.
Allegiant Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Allegiant is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.