There is a reason why no one ever fails Abnegation initiation.
In Abnegation, everyone is equal. Everyone is one. It would be selfish to be different, to inconvenience people with your quirks. And it would be selfish to dislike someone for his differences, just because his quirks inconvenience you.
And it would be selfish not to include everyone, to make everyone your friend. To make everyone a part of the group.
In Dauntless, if you want to be a part of the group, you have to prove it by what you do and do not do, and how you do it.
I was a part of the group the first day I came to Dauntless, the day I was given the name Four.
I did not deserve it.
When Tris walks into the cafeteria that evening, after zip lining from the Hancock building, she stands amongst the Dauntless like she is one of them. They stand around her like they have accepted her.
She deserved it.
I watch her writhe and scream, batting at the imaginary crows around her.. My hands lay helplessly in my lap, and I wait for her to wake up. I feel useless, because I cannot help her. When she does wake up, she screams and moans and pulls her knees to her chest, burying her face in them.
I gently touch her shoulder, and she punches me in the arm. “Don’t touch me!” she sobs into her knees.
For a moment, I feel like she’s lost forever.
I blink, and that thought leaves my brain, I don’t let myself think about it.
“It’s over,” I tell her. I awkwardly stroke her hair, like Abnegation parents do to calm their crying children, like what my parents never did to me. “Tris.”
She rocks back and forth in the metal chair.
I hate seeing her like this. She always looks so strong, but here she is, broken. “Tris, I’m going to take you back to the dorms, okay?”
“No!” she snaps at me, and I’m startled. She glares at me, and her eyes are filled with tears. “They can’t see me…not like this…”
She’s just been scared to death, and the first thing she’s worried about is her public image? “Oh, calm down,” I roll my eyes. “I’ll take you out the back door.”
“I don’t need you to…”
“Nonsense.” Her body is trembling and I can tell she’s extremely weak.
Before she rejects my help, I grab her arm and haul her out of the chair, steering her towards the door behind the computer screen.
We walk down the hallway in silence. When we’re a few hundred yards away from the room, she yanks her arm away and stops. “Why did you do that to me?” she demands, her stare penetrating my skull. “What was the point of that, huh? I wasn’t aware that when I chose Dauntless, I was signing up for weeks of torture!”
Seeing her speak like that scares me, because it makes me doubt the strength I thought she had. “Did you think overcoming cowardice would be easy?” I tell her calmly.
“This isn’t overcoming cowardice! Cowardice is how you decide to be in real life, and in real life, I am not getting pecked to death by crows, Four!” she sobs into her hands. After a few seconds, she stops and wipes her face. “I want to go home,” she says weakly.
She knows as well as I do that home is not an option anymore.
I should have comforted her, but all I felt was irritation. I was angry with her for being weak, for giving up so easily. I was scared that I’d lost the real Tris, and I wanted her back. “Learning how to think in the midst of fear,” I tell her coolly, “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 to get the hell out of here, because we won’t want you.”
“I’m trying.” Her lower lip trembles. “But I failed. I’m failing.”
Seeing her so broken, and the way I respond to her so coldly, makes me feel like a failure. I sigh. “How long do you think you spent in that hallucination, Tris?”
“I don’t know.” She shakes her head. “A half hour?”
“Three minutes,” I tell her. “You got out three times faster than the other initiates. Whatever you are, you’re not a failure.” She looks slightly relieved, and I smile at her. “Tomorrow you’ll be better at this. You’ll see.” Something floats to the top of my mind, a word I don’t want to even think of, but I push it out of my mind, just as I gently push her towards the dormitory.
“What was your first hallucination?” she asks, glancing at me.
I want to tell her everything, to let everything that I’ve kept inside me spill out. But I don’t do that. “It wasn’t a ‘what’ so much as a ‘who’.” I shrug. “It’s not important.”
“And are you over that fear now?”
“Not yet,” I tell her. We reach the door to the dormitory, and I lean against the wall. “I may never be.”
In this post, Tobias says that “I was a part of the group the first day I came to Dauntless, the day I was given the name Four.” It was not specified in the book that initiates in the past went through their fear landscape on the first day, but on Veronica Roth’s website, she states that
In “Free Four”, Tobias reveals that when he was an initiate, the initiation process was a bit different: initiates went through their fear landscapes immediately after arriving at the Dauntless compound. In Divergent, it’s mentioned a few times that the initiation process has changed quite a bit since Tobias was an initiate (he suggests it has become a lot more brutal, for example), and one of those changes was that the fear landscape was shifted to the end.