Divergent Recap – Chapter 18

In which we learn what’s the second stage of initiation and wish this book wasn’t so shallow about science…

This chapters starts with Tris and other initiates standing in a hallway waiting for something. Apparently, Four told them from now on transfers and Dauntless-born will train together. Lynn, one of the Dauntless-born, asks who’s first ranked among transfers and Peter informs her he is.

“Bet I could take you.” She says it casually, turning the ring in her eyebrow with her fingertips. “I’m second, but I bet any of us could take you, transfer.”

Duh, all of you are fighting since you were 4 years old. Tris almost laughs and remarks such challenges are expected from the Dauntless. I don’t see any challenge. Lynn was just showing off and she does point out all of them spent years preparing for this. We also find out that Uriah is ranked first. Again, how convenient that the guy ranked first is so nice to Tris.

Four calls Lynn inside the room where no one knows what happens. It’s weird that the Dauntless-born initiates don’t have a clue. No parent wanted to prepare their kid for what happens in the initiation? They apparently told them you can’t prepare for that stage. Shitty parents. Each of the initiates goes alone into the room, so I guess they aren’t really training together if they have to do whatever happens in that room alone.

Finally, Tris gets inside the room where she sees reclining chair and a familiar machine (that the author never bothers to describe). There is also a desk with a computer. I wonder what kind of computer. Is it like a Mac or is it like a bulky computer from 20 years ago? Given this book, I would say the latter. Tris asks what’s the simulation.

“Ever hear the phrase ‘face your fears’?” he says. “We’re taking that literally. The simulation will teach you to control your emotions in the midst of a frightening situation.”

Apart from the fact there is nothing specific in his answer, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Initially, I thought that the simulations will probably put them in fearful situations to see how they deal with them. And then, I had to continue reading.

Tris is afraid of the simulations, even though she knows they aren’t real and her last simulation wasn’t that bad. She manages to sit on the chair and asks Four if he administers aptitude tests. He tells her he doesn’t associate with Abnegation but doesn’t explain further. Hint hint! He holds a large syringe with some sort of orange serum. Why orange? Does it have vitamin C? Fuck knows. He explains that they use an advanced version of the simulation, with no wires or electrodes.

“How does it work without wires?”
“Well, I have wires, so I can see what’s going on,” he says. “But for you, there’s a tiny transmitter in the serum that sends data to the computer.”

Uhm, come again? Pray tell us how the transmitter is actually picking up either the blood flow to various regions of the brain or the actual electrical and chemical signals between neurons. And then enlighten us on how the nano transmitter sends the data to the computers? WiFi? That transmitter needs a power source. And even if all this would be possible, how is the computer decoding the data from the transmitter into something meaningful in REAL TIME? Yeah, I know this is fiction, but that doesn’t mean it should be stupid.

“In addition to containing the transmitter, the serum stimulates the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in procession negative emotions – like fear – and then induces a hallucination. […] You stay in the hallucination until you calm down – that is, lower your heart rate and control your breathing.”

I know, science is hard and reading it can be so boring for some people. But it shouldn’t be for a writer. So, neuroscience lesson: the fear circuit in the brain is complex and it involves 5 different regions, including the amygdala. It originates in the sensory part of the brain and ends with the “fight-or-flight” response. You need some fucking sensory input, like an image or a sound, to become fearful. Amygdala is a group of structures in the brain and its primary role is in processing of memory and emotional reactions. All of them, not just the negative ones. Amygdala also has a role in fear conditioning, meaning associations between fear and stimuli. For example, if a dog bites you, whenever you see a dog, you’re going to fear it. Let’s assume you could stimulate the amygdala by drugs. Stimulating the amygdala could trigger physical reactions related to fear, but it could also trigger lust, rage attacks, overeating or antianxiety. Yes, the amygdala also contains an anti-anxiety circuit.

The whole you have to “lower your heart rate and control your breathing” is stupid in the context of using drugs to elicit fear related physical reactions. Can you stop being drunk or high? No, you can’t. You have to wait until the drugs are flushed from your system. So, all the initiates should be in a temporary state of fear and dread. This book is awful.

Tris starts hallucinating and she’s in a dry grass field where everything smells like smoke and the sky is green. A crow lands on her shoulder and she tries to hit, but the crow digs its talons in her skin. Then a cloud of crows envelop her and nip her. Tris screams, cries, wails for help. I’m not sure how the hallucination thing works. Is Tris afraid of crows or something? Doesn’t she have a tattoo of 3 crows representing her family? Is she afraid of her family? Meh. She remembers to breathe and relax her muscles, letting the crows peck her. And she wakes up.

She starts screaming and hitting and sobbing again, although I thought she relaxed.

“It’s over,” Four says. The hand shifts awkwardly over my hair, and I remember my father stroking my hair when he kissed me goodnight, […].

Uhm, didn’t she say at some point that her parents didn’t show too much affection towards her? He starts walking her to the dormitory, but on their way there she starts crying again because she doesn’t understand this torture. It’s easy, Tris, the Dauntless are idiots.

“Learning how to think in the midst of fear,” he says, “is a lesson that everyone, even your Stiff family, needs to learn. That’s what we’re trying to teach you. If you can’t learn it, you’ll need the get the hell out of here, because we won’t want you.”

They aren’t really teaching them anything, they are just throwing them in extremely unpleasant situations, bound to trigger PTSD. A way to overcome fears is through immersion therapy or exposure therapy. What the Dauntless are doing is actually make them hide their fears by acting reckless.

Tris keeps saying she failed and Four reveals that she was in the simulation for 3 minutes only and she was 3 times faster than the other initiates. Because she’s special in case you forgot. She asks him what was his first hallucination, and he replies it was a “who”. Hint Marcus hint! And he’s still not over it and he will probably never be.

“But becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it, that’s the point.”

I actually agree with this, but the rest of the book doesn’t agree with him. Again, there are much better ways to learn how to control fear, like meditation, martial arts, breathing techniques, etc. They are not teaching any of those, so I assume that most of the Dauntless aren’t really prepared for anything.

“Anyway, your fears are rarely what they appear to be in simulation,” he adds.

The subject shouldn’t have such a strong physical response then if the hallucination doesn’t represent a fear. You can’t overcome a fear you don’t have. Because it’s not a fear. All this to make sure we know Tris isn’t afraid of crows.

Tris leans closer to Four, so there is less than six inches separating them. Huh, maybe that serum made her more lustful after all. Though, I would expect her to jump him. She asks him what are her fears and he responds that only she knows.

I nod slowly. There are a dozen things it could be, but I’m not sure which one is right, or if there’s even one right one.

That’s like so stupid. I know what I’m afraid of, and I bet you know what are you afraid of. The obvious is that I’m afraid of dying, like any normal human being. I’m afraid of dog packs because I live in a city full of them. I’m afraid of alien invasions. I’m afraid of bugs, but I’m trying to overcome that by squashing them whenever I can. It’s quite funny because immediately after I squash one bug, I’m jumping on one foot, screaming “eek eek eek!” Bottom line, I could go on and on about my fears because it is not so hard to evoke fearful situations. Except for Tris.

Four tells her it wasn’t that difficult to become Dauntless and that’s because the leadership changed six years ago. The new leaders made the training methods more competitive and brutal, and that changed the priorities. And all the Dauntless went along with it, because they are brainless? Or what? I can’t imagine parents being ok with stupid until-unconscious fights. Whatever. We also learn that Eric was ranked second and that’s why he hates Four. I wonder why Eric didn’t stabbed Four with a knife in the eye as there are no punishments there.

Do you think Four is a natural leader? I don’t. Tris does and I’m not sure why. I hate when some characters say stuff about someone, but we never get to see that supposed behavior. In the end, Tris asks if she looks like she was crying (duh, your eyes are probably red and puffy, Tris) and Four leans closer, to arouse her I guess because she stops breathing, and tells her she looks “tough as nails”. And I’m done for today.

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