Beatrice wakes up in a room lined with mirrors, and finds Tori standing over her. Tori says, “That was perplexing,” and leaves. Beatrice wonders if she’s failed her test. Tori reenters the room and gives Beatrice her results: inconclusive. All Tori knows is that Beatrice is not Amity or Candor—Beatrice’s dishonesty and refusal to take a knife indicate this. At the same time, Beatrice’s behavior with the dog suggests that she’s evenly split between Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. In short, Beatrice embodies a state called “Divergent.” Tori tells Beatrice not to share this information with anyone—ever. She adds that being Divergent is extremely dangerous.
This is one of the novel’s most important sections, and our first introduction to the term “Divergent.” On one level, Divergence just means that a person doesn’t fit neatly into one of the preordained categories of this society. But there is another aspect to Divergence as well, one that Roth doesn’t really explain in this first novel: Divergence is a state of mind in and of itself, with its own special abilities and drawbacks. It’s also notable (and seemingly odd) that Beatrice’s test didn’t last very long, and it wasn’t very exhaustive (less so even than the average Meyers-Briggs personality test)—so we can imagine many such tests (maybe even the majority) coming up inconclusive. This points to an idea that Roth repeatedly brings up: what if everyone is a little Divergent? Otherwise the whole foundation of Roth’s society seems based on an oversimplified view of human nature, and Beatrice’s Divergence is essentially a fantasy about being special and unique while everyone else is not.
Later in the day, Beatrice decides not to ride the bus home. She walks through the city, noticing the decaying signs and streetlights. There are crumbling old buildings standing next to brand new ones, and a large “marsh” (which the reader might recognize as Lake Michigan).
We get more of a sense for the dystopian setting in which the novel plays out. Clearly, industry and business has declined (hence the crumbling buildings), and there seems to have been some kind of environmental catastrophe (hence the drained lake).
Beatrice thinks about her Divergence. If she’s assigned to a different Faction, following the results of her test, she’ll be separated from her family forever. On the other hand, Beatrice could also be assigned to be “factionless.” The factionless people in the city live in poverty because they’ve never been initiated into a faction.
At this point, Beatrice is terrified of her own Divergence, because she associates it with powerlessness. Belonging to a faction is a guarantee of food, shelter, friendship, and a secure sense of identity: being unable to decide on one’s faction, therefore, signals a hard, dangerous life.
As she walks home, Beatrice offers food to a poor factionless man, who eagerly accepts it. The man grabs Beatrice’s wrist and says she has pretty eyes. Beatrice prepares to hit the man and run away. But before she can act, the man lets her go and says, “Choose wisely, little girl.”
There’s seemingly a difference between Divergence and “the factionless,” but it’s unclear how stark this divide is. On one level, it seems that the factionless are those who choose a faction but then simply fail its initiation rites, while Divergents start out with a totally different state of mind altogether. Either way, this man’s warning feels prophetic, and adds to the sense of doom growing around Beatrice’s approaching decision.