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Themes and Colors
Identity, Choice, and Divergence Theme Icon
Strength, Selfishness, and Selflessness Theme Icon
Competition, Groups, and Rivalries Theme Icon
Fear, Bravery, and Maturity Theme Icon
Women and Sexuality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Divergent, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Fear, Bravery, and Maturity Theme Icon

During the time she spends training with the Dauntless, Tris Prior learns how to confront her deepest fears, and indeed, this is one of the most basic lessons she learns from her Dauntless mentors. The entire culture of the Dauntless community is centered on fear, as the Dauntless believe that fear—or rather, cowardice—is the most basic problem with the human race. Thus, the path to success and peace necessarily involves mastering one’s fears and becoming brave. In general, Divergent shows how Tris “comes of age” by understanding and dealing with her fears.

One of the novel’s most important points about fear is that everybody, without exception, feels it. Tris and her peers go through rigorous training, during which they’re made to vividly experience their fears. Every one of the new recruits is shaken by this challenge: fear is their common denominator, bringing them closer together. One could even say that fear is the most fundamental thing “about” the characters, some of whom (Four, for example) are actually named after their fears.

If fear is a basic part of being human, then growing up requires us to make sense of our fears. Interestingly, Divergent suggests that being brave doesn’t mean eliminating fear altogether; rather, bravery requires us to come to terms with fear and deal with it even if we can’t actually defeat it. During Tris’s Dauntless training, she’s injected with hallucinogenic serum that makes her experience her worst fears, but over time, Tris learns how to cope with her fears. She accepts that she’ll always be frightened of the same things: drowning, losing her family, etc. Instead of trying to “hide” from these fears, Tris forces herself to accept them as realities. Because she’s Divergent (and thus has access to a unique mental state that’s never fully explained in the book), Tris has an easier time than most staying sane during her training: she’s able to tell herself, “This is just a hallucination.” Tris’s courage and composure in the face of fear make her seem mature and adult-like to her peers among the Dauntless—and to readers.

Tris’s struggle to come to terms with her fears is more than an important part of her training, though. It also represents one of her greatest strengths as a heroine. While many of Tris’s peers and friends are easily manipulated by the propaganda released by the Erudites, Tris “sticks to her guns,” recognizing that the Erudite are trying to scare the other factions into obedience. In general, Tris isn’t as susceptible to manipulation and scare tactics as her friends. In no small part, this is because she’s courageous; her Dauntless training has taught her to accept fear instead of trying to bury it altogether. Everyone feels fear, Tris included. But Tris is special: she learns how to deal with her fear in a productive way. In general, she’s the heroine of the novel not so much because of her intelligence or her combat skills, but because she’s Divergent: because of her Divergence, she’s able to use fear in a productive way, becoming a brave, full-grown adult in the process.

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Fear, Bravery, and Maturity Quotes in Divergent

Below you will find the important quotes in Divergent related to the theme of Fear, Bravery, and Maturity.
Chapter 5 Quotes

Marcus offers me my knife. I look into his eyes—they are dark blue, a strange color—and take it. He nods, and I turn toward the bowls. Dauntless fire and Abnegation stones are both on my left, one in front of my shoulder and one behind. I hold the knife in my right hand and touch the blade to my palm. Gritting my teeth, I drag the blade down. It stings, but I barely notice. I hold both hands to my chest, and my next breath shudders on the way out.

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker), Marcus
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Marcus (an important city leader) presides over the choosing ceremony, an important event in which the 16-year-olds of the city choose the identity and community they'll bear for the rest of their lives: Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Candor, or Amity. In the ceremony, choosing one's identity entails cutting one's own skin and bleeding into one of five ceremonial receptacles, each corresponding to a different group.

It's appropriate that choosing one's identity is a tough, painful exercise: one can't choose lightly to cut one's own flesh. The brutality of choosing one's identity reflects the severity of the choice itself: there's no going back once Beatrice decides what she'll be. Furthermore, the fact that the different receptacles collect the blood of new members reflects the familial closeness between members of the same faction. Even though members hail from all over the city, they're bound together by blood: not in the sense of sharing the same DNA, but in the sense of sharing the same interests and desires. At the same time, the almost savage aspect of this ceremony shows how regressive it really is—it's absurd to think of people as so "flat" that they can all be easily divided into only five groups, and even more absurd to divide them at age 16, a time when people are constantly growing and changing.


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Chapter 7 Quotes

“The chasm reminds us that there is a fine line between bravery and idiocy!” Four shouts. “A daredevil jump off this ledge will end your life. It has happened before and it will happen again. You’ve been warned.”

Related Characters: Tobias / Four (speaker)
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

When Beatrice arrives at her new home--the Dauntless stronghold--she's given an important lesson in bravery. Four (Tobias), a young, charismatic Dauntless leader, shows his new recruits the enormous chasm in the middle of the Dauntless stronghold. There are many "brave" Dauntless recruits who've tried to prove their bravery by jumping across the chasm--and every single one of these recruits has died. Tobias uses the memory of his dead recruits to prove that bravery doesn't necessarily imply risking one's own life needlessly. Tobias is a rare voice of caution and restraint, surrounded by daredevils and bullies. He's clearly very brave, but he tries to temper his bravery with intelligence. In short, Tobias and Beatrice are kindred spirits: they're in the Dauntless world, but they seem to take the Dauntless dogma with a grain of salt, adding other virtues because of their Divergent nature.

Chapter 8 Quotes

It takes me five rounds to hit the middle of the target, and when I do, a rush of energy goes through me. I am awake, my eyes wide open, my hands warm. I lower the gun. There is power in controlling something that can do so much damage—in controlling something, period. Maybe I do belong here.

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker)
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Beatrice begins her training at the Dauntless facility. Naturally, she's instructed in the art of combat, psychological warfare, and military strategy. At first, Beatrice struggles to come out of her shell--she's so used to being modest and reserved that she doesn't know how to fight back. But after some practice, she discovers that she's an excellent shot--she can fire a gun and throw a knife with great skill. Beatrice begins to realize that she fits in well at Dauntless: in spite of her Divergent nature, there's pleasure to be found in settling into one identity and community, even if that identity doesn't totally represent her character.

Chapter 9 Quotes

“It ends when one of you is unable to continue,” says Eric.
“According to Dauntless rules,” Four says, “one of you could also concede.” Eric narrows his eyes at Four.
“According to the old rules,” he says. “In the new rules, no one concedes.”
“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others,” Four replies.

“A brave man never surrenders,” Eric says, and Four and Eric stare at each other for a few seconds.

I feel like I am looking at two different kinds of Dauntless—the honorable kind, and the ruthless kind. But even I know that in this room, it’s Eric, the youngest leader of the Dauntless, who has the authority.

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker), Tobias / Four (speaker), Eric (speaker)
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

In this moment, Eric and Four--two of the important teachers at the Dauntless compound--organize a ruthless match between two new recruits, Will and Al. Although Four wants the fight to end quickly and honorably, Eric takes a different approach: he wants the fight to be as long and bloody as possible.

Eric and Four's exchange reflects the two different sub-factions within the Faction of Dauntless. Eric thinks of combat as a bloody, sadistic sport, designed to prove one's strength and superiority. Four thinks of combat as a more complicated undertaking, designed to confirm one's inner strength, not just his or her ability to punch, kick, or shoot. In short, Eric thinks that Dauntless means blood; Four thinks it means honor.

Chapter 17 Quotes

My heart beats so hard it hurts, and I can’t scream and I can’t breathe, but I also feel everything, every vein and every fiber, every bone and every nerve, all awake and buzzing in my body as if charged with electricity. I am pure adrenaline.

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker)
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tris begins an important rite of passage for Dauntless recruits: zip-lining down from the John Hancock Building. Tris is frightened but also exhilarated as she prepares to take her "leap of faith." She knows she could die, and yet comes to embrace her own feelings of fear.

Tris's behavior during this scene confirms why she fits in so well with the Dauntless. Tris is a shy, reserved person, but deep down, she has a boundless love for adventure and danger. Tris is both attracted and repelled by the Dauntless way of life: she enjoys combat, and yet also finds it immoral and disgusting. In short, Tris's attitude toward zip-lining symbolizes her feelings toward Dauntless itself: she's frightened and even disturbed by it, and yet she can't look away.

Chapter 21 Quotes

I wanted to be like the Dauntless I saw at school. I wanted to be loud and daring and free like them. But they were not members yet; they were just playing at being Dauntless. And so was I, when I jumped off that roof. I didn’t know what fear was.

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker)
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

Tris comes to terms with the second stage of her training. After learning the art of personal combat, Tris has now been coached in psychological warfare: she's trained to resist chemically-administered hallucinations. Tris realizes that she's encountering more frightening things than she's ever experienced before: she's jumped off of tall buildings and gotten in bloody fights, but she's never encountered anything half as frightening as her own hallucinations.

In short, Tris's own greatest enemy is her own mind. While most people would assume that the key part of being Dauntless is knowing how to fight, Tris understands that it's more important to control one's own mind. Tris agrees with Four on a code of self-control, psychological rigor, and quiet power. Knowing how to fight an armed opponent is important, but knowing how to control one's own thoughts is more valuable.

He pulls me forward a few inches and then slams me against the wall again. I clench my teeth to keep from crying out, though pain from the impact went all the way down my spine.
Will grabs Peter by his shirt collar and drags him away from me. “Leave her alone,” he says. “Only a coward bullies a little girl.”
“A little girl?” scoffs Peter, throwing off Will’s hand. “Are you blind, or just stupid? She’s going to edge you out of the rankings and out of Dauntless, and you’re going to get nothing, all because she knows how to manipulate people and you don’t. So when you realize that she’s out to ruin us all, you let me know.”

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker), Peter (speaker), Will (speaker)
Page Number: 267-268
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the conflict between the two Dauntless "codes" becomes crystal clear. Peter--one of Tris's rivals for dominance among the new recruits--tries to cement his position by hurting Tris. Tris's friend Will defends her from Peter, pointing out that it's dishonorable to beat up a girl. Peter's answer shows how greedy and cruel he's become: for Peter, the only thing that matters is his ranking--he'll gladly beat up a girl if it helps him win. (Roth doesn't really comment on the sexist undertones of the two boys fighting over the "little girl," or just how "dishonorable" it is for a boy to fight a girl.)

Previously, Dauntless soldiers were trained to be honorable and respectful, rather than using their physical prowess to win at all costs. Nowadays, under Eric's leadership, Dauntless has become brutal, pointlessly competitive, and sadistic. Peter is the ideal "new" Dauntless soldier: amoral, ruthless, and generally dismissive of the very notion of honor.

Chapter 23 Quotes

Whoever he is, I like him. It’s easier for me to admit that to myself now, in the dark, after all that just happened. He is not sweet or gentle or particularly kind. But he is smart and brave, and even though he saved me, he treated me like I was strong. That is all I need to know. I watch the muscles in his back expand and contract until I fall asleep.

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker), Tobias / Four
Page Number: 288-289
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tris sleeps in Four's bed, while Four sleeps on the floor. Although there's no physical interaction between the two of them it's clear that Tris is beginning to feel attracted to Four: she likes his "masculine smell." But Tris's attraction to Four runs deeper than the physical. Tris admires Four for being strong and fast--in short, for being a perfect Dauntless warrior. But furthermore, Tris likes that Four is honorable: he treats Tris like a strong woman, even when he's saving her single-handedly. In short, Four is the ideal Dauntless warrior of the "old days" (before Eric rose to power). Four is tough and brutal, but he also believes in the old-fashioned values of honor and respect.

Chapter 28 Quotes

We stop on the concrete around the metal bean, where the Erudite sit in small groups with newspapers or books. He takes off his glasses and shoves them in his pocket, then runs a hand through his hair, his eyes skipping over mine nervously. Like he’s ashamed. Maybe I should be too. I’m tattooed, loose-haired, and wearing tight clothes. But I’m just not.

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker), Caleb Prior
Related Symbols: Tattoos
Page Number: 351
Explanation and Analysis:

Tris goes to visit her brother, Caleb. At the Erudite compound, Tris notices that Caleb is wearing glasses (presumably, a symbol of the Erudite people--the old cliche that smart people wear glasses). Caleb seems to be wearing glasses for no reason--he's so desperate to fit in with his new peers that he's willing to pretend that he has bad eyesight. The fact that Caleb seems ashamed of how he's changed further suggests that his commitment to Erudite is still fresh: he's insecure, and the sight of his sister is enough to make him feel guilty.

It's important to note that while Caleb seems uncomfortable with his new Erudite identity, Tris is perfectly secure in her Dauntless identity. Paradoxically, even though Tris is Divergent, she's "settled" into the role of a Dauntless warrior. Tris is a reluctant member of Dauntless, yet she's learned how to put on an appearance of total confidence.

I don’t know when I accumulated so many secrets. Being Divergent. Fears. How I really feel about my friends, my family, Al, Tobias. Candor initiation would reach things that even the simulations can’t touch; it would wreck me. “Sounds awful,” I say.
“I always knew I couldn’t be Candor. I mean, I try to be honest, but some things you just don’t want people to know. Plus, I like to be in control of my own mind.”

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker), Christina (speaker), Tobias / Four , Al
Page Number: 371
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Tris talks about the Candor community with her friend Christina. Christina was born into a Candor family, but never liked it there. She was a reserved, introverted child, and couldn't stand the idea of living in a place where she was required to disclose all her secrets.

The passage is important because it foreshadows the way that the  Dauntless and Erudite leaders will use mind control to dominate their own people. Furthermore, the passage's emphasis on self-control and secretiveness reinforces the fact that Tris is a complex, conflicted character. While most of Tris's peers are willing to commit to one Faction, Tris goes through constant identity crises. She feels like a Dauntless soldier one day; a member of Abnegation the next. Like Christina, Tris could never survive in a community that demands total honesty: she changes her mind so often that she's often dishonest with herself.

Chapter 30 Quotes

Simulation Tobias kisses my neck. I try to think. I have to face the fear. I have to take control of the situation and find a way to make it less frightening. I look Simulation Tobias in the eye and say sternly, “I am not going to sleep with you in a hallucination. Okay?”

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker), Tobias / Four
Page Number: 393-394
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Tris has a strange encounter with Tobias in her hallucination (a hallucination that's being administered to train her to control her own emotions). Tobias--who by this point is involved in a  secret relationship with Tris--kisses Tris. Tris, who's still sexually inexperienced, is frightened and a little intimidated by Tobias's advances. And yet she's confident enough in herself to summon the courage to turn Tobias down, asserting control over her own hallucinations.

The passage suggests the relationship between maturity, fear, sexuality, and coming-of-age. Tris is clearly attracted to Tobias, but she's also afraid of sex and her own sexuality. In facing her fears and turning Tobias down, Tris becomes a more mature, confident young woman, taking control of her own fears at the same time that she takes control of her relationships with other people. In short, Tris confronts her fears of sexuality and learns how to deal with fear itself.

Chapter 38 Quotes

I have done this before—in my fear landscape, with the gun in my hand, a voice shouting at me to fire at the people I love. I volunteered to die instead, that time, but I can’t imagine how that would help me now. But I just know, I know what the right thing to do is. My father says—used to say—that there is power in self-sacrifice. I turn the gun in my hands and press it into Tobias’s palm.

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker), Tobias / Four , Andrew Prior
Page Number: 475
Explanation and Analysis:

In this climactic scene of the novel, Tris points a gun at Tobias, who's been brainwashed to fight on behalf of Eric and Jeanine. Although Tris knows the "right" Dauntless thing to do is to shoot Tobias, she finds herself unable to hurt her friend and lover. Instead of embracing violence, like the good Dauntless soldier she's been trained to be, Tris opts for the way of Abnegation: she sacrifices her own safety and security to protect Tobias.

The passage proves that Tris, in spite of her success among the Dauntless recruits, can't be pinned down as Dauntless. A true Divergent, she alternates between Dauntless courage and Abnegation virtue. In the end, she seems to place a higher premium on love and compassion than on victory--a sure sign that she's transcended the petty factionalism of her society.

Chapter 39 Quotes

Abnegation and Dauntless are both broken, their members scattered. We are like the factionless now. I do not know what life will be like, separated from a faction—it feels disengaged, like a leaf divided from the tree that gives it sustenance. We are creatures of loss; we have left everything behind. I have no home, no path, and no certainty. I am no longer Tris, the selfless, or Tris, the brave. I suppose that now, I must become more than either.

Related Characters: Beatrice Prior / Tris (speaker)
Page Number: 487
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Tris comes to terms with her identity, or rather, her lack of an identity. Tris has been trained to think in terms of Factions--i.e., a person can be brave or selfless, but not both. At the end of the novel, Tris sees the absurdity of factionalism: she's brave, intelligent, selfless, etc.--there's no good way to reduce her identity to one quality.

Beyond Tris's disillusionment, her two home factions (Dauntless and Abnegation) have both been destroyed by the citywide coup, so Tris is now forced to transcend factionalism altogether. In so doing, Tris becomes a more identifiable protagonist. No reader of Divergent can be easily reduced to one overarching category--we're just as Divergent as Tris. In other words, we're meant to identify with Tris for going beyond life's simple categorizations.