Tris regains consciousness and finds herself in a small room. She’s still bleeding heavily. Tris notices that there’s a video camera in the room. Gradually, she realizes that she’s sitting in an enormous, glass-lined tank, into which water is slowly trickling.
The petty cruelty behind this villainous plan is clear—the Dauntless government knows that Tris is terrified of drowning, so it makes sure to kill her by drowning. At the same time, this situation has a rather clichéd, action-movie feel to it—the villain explains her plan to the heroine, and then instead of having her killed right away, leaves her alone in a situation where she has more time to escape or be rescued.
Tris tries to calm herself. She remembers being a child, when Natalie would bathe her. This reminds Tris of God—something she doesn’t think of very often. As she contemplates God, Tris is glad she shot Eric in the foot instead of the head.
Interestingly, the presence of water has a calming influence on Tris—she’s able to overcome her fears by associating her pain with pleasurable memory. This suggests that Tris’s experience in the tank is like a Christian baptism: Tris is being “born again,” free from one of her old fears.
Suddenly, Tris hears a loud bang, and sees the glass of her tank cracking. She’s amazed to see Natalie, armed with a gun, peer into the tank—she says, “We have to run.” Tris stands up and asks her mother, point-blank, if her mother was Dauntless. Natalie replies that she was. Before Tris can ask anything else, Natalie and Tris run out the room. Tris realizes that she’s been sent to Abnegation headquarters.
In this deus ex machina moment, Tris’s mother saves her from certain death. Tris and her mother have one important connection: Tris switched from Abnegation to Dauntless, while Natalie moved from Dauntless to Abnegation. This suggests that there’s more fluidity between the factions than had previously been supposed—it’s possible to move back and forth between them, according to the way one’s personality changes.
As Tris and Natalie run through Abnegation, Natalie explains a few things to Tris. Natalie has been monitoring train schedules ever since the attacks began, so that she could save her daughter. Tris demands to know how Natalie knew that Tris was Divergent. Natalie replies that she is Divergent, too: her own mother was a Dauntless leader, and sent her to Abnegation because she’d be safer there. Divergent people are dangerous to the factions, Natalie continues, because they refuse to think and act according to their factions’ orders.
Divergence is apparently partly a medical or a chemical condition, but it’s mostly just a kind of independence and willingness to question authority. Thus, Tris discovers, Divergence isn’t as uncommon as she’d previously thought: there are many Divergent people in her life. This suggests that the mark of a mature person isn’t bravery, intelligence, kindness, etc., but rather the willpower to move back and forth between all of these characteristics, and others. In short, Divergence is human, and that’s why it’s so dangerous to the government of the city.
Natalie leads Tris out of the building and points her toward a building where she claims Andrew and Caleb are hiding. As Natalie rushes away, there’s a bang, and Tris sees her mother clutching her abdomen: she’s just been shot. Tris screams. She wants to fall into despair and give up, but by remembering the feeling of Tobias’s hands, she manages to find the strength to run away, back to her family.
Natalie sacrifices her life to protect her child (another Christian motif, and the epitome of Abnegation). Tris has spent most of the book terrified that her family will stop caring about her because she abandoned them for Dauntless. Now, Tris loses her mother—ironically, in the same instant that she realizes that her mother truly loves her.