It’s the morning of Visiting Day. Eric walks into the dormitories and tells the recruits that it’s best not to seem too attached. He then pulls Tris aside and tells her that he’s underestimated her talent—she did well yesterday. Tris isn’t flattered by this, though. If Eric is praising her, she thinks, she’s done something wrong.
Tris realizes that she’s going down the wrong path: Eric’s path. In her fight with Molly, Tris exemplified the kind of thoughtless violence and punishment of weakness that Eric has been celebrating so far.
Tris goes into the meeting room, where she sees her friends and enemies talking to their parents. She notices her mother and runs toward her. To Tris’s surprise and pleasure, she and her mother talk just as they used to: Tris tells her mother about school, but makes sure to ask her mother questions about herself. Tris’s mother—like a good member of Abnegation—insists that Tris tell her about her own life instead. She also explains that Tris’s father “had to be at work.” Tris’s mother notes that he has been selfish lately, but says he still loves Tris enormously. Tris notices that her mother seems oddly comfortable in the Dauntless headquarters.
Tris’s fears of displeasing her family are both reasonable and exaggerated. It’s true that Tris has disappointed her father (this is why he’s not present), but she hasn’t alienated her mother in the slightest. We begin to sense that Tris’s mother has a lot of secrets of her own—Tris is far from the only character in this novel with a secret identity to hide, and a large part of Tris’s coming-of-age consists in her recognizing this about the people around her.
Before can Tris can say much about herself, Four introduces himself to Tris’s mother—whose name, she says, is Natalie. Four tells Natalie that Tris is doing very well. Natalie thanks Four for his encouragement, and notices that Four looks somewhat familiar. Four says he doesn’t know when he would have met Natalie.
This is an example of a kind of “Chekhov’s Pistol”—a piece of seemingly useless information mentioned in a work of literature that’s clearly going to become important later on. We have no idea why Four looks familiar to Natalie, but we can be pretty sure that we’ll find out later.
Tris meets a woman who says that she’s Al’s mother—she can’t find her son, and wants to know if Tris knows where he is, but Tris doesn’t. Tris also meets Christina’s mother, and Will’s sister, Cara. Cara accuses Tris’s father of manipulating his government position to favor the people of Abnegation. Natalie politely denies this, and her politeness seems utterly foreign to Tris.
This section is very poignant—Al refuses to see his parents, presumably because he doesn’t want them to be sad about his beating. We also see more her about the conflict between the Erudite and Abnegation: the power-hungry Erudite apparently think that Abnegation should be removed from the government.
Natalie asks Tris how she’s doing, and Tris says that she’s ranked near the bottom of her class. Natalie also asks Tris for her aptitude test results—reluctantly, Tris admits that her results were inconclusive. Natalie nods, and explains that many Abnegation people get this result. She warns Tris not to draw attention to herself. She also tells Tris that she’ll love her no matter what. Tris is about to say the word “Divergent” out loud, but Natalie covers her daughter’s mouth first.
It’s now clear that there’s more to Natalie than meets the eye. She not only recognizes that Tris is Divergent, but she seems to have some personal experience with Divergence as well. As we might have suspected, Divergence isn’t as uncommon as Tris has been led to believe—even if it’s still something very dangerous to the authorities in this rigidly divided society.
Natalie then asks Tris to ask Caleb to research “simulation serum,” as Natalie herself can’t visit Caleb. Tris doesn’t understand why Natalie is asking Tris to do this, but Natalie insists that she can’t explain it. Before she goes, Natalie tells Tris, “They are already monitoring you.” As Tris watches her mother leave, it occurs to her that her mother was once Dauntless.
Natalie again surprises her daughter, and gives more hints of trouble in the upper levels of government. Because personal talk is looked down upon in Abnegation (and Tris also seems to have been very unobservant there), Tris spent her entire life unaware of Natalie’s past.