Divergent Symbols and Motifs

Veronica Roth


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Divergent Symbols and Motifs

Symbols and Tattoos 

On the day of the choosing ceremony, faction members are presented with five bowls containing substances symbolizing the five factions: grey stones for Abnegation, coals for Dauntless, water for Erudite, earth for Amity, and glass for Candor. Transferring her allegiance to Dauntless in this ceremony is a pivotal moment for Tris on an official level. On an unofficial basis, however, tattoos are a way of life in Dauntless. Tris has often noticed the tattooed Dauntless as they jump from the train and, when she joins this faction, she and her friends acquire a variety of tattoos.

Getting tattoos in itself is symbolic for members of Dauntless, with Al remarking that “I just want to feel like I’ve actually left the old faction” (85). Likewise, Tris is aware that her family disapproves of tattoos—though she later learns that her Dauntless mother has one herself—but she wants to find a way of embracing her new life while honoring her old one. This is why she gets a tattoo of three ravens to symbolize the family members she has left behind.

In this respect, Tris is inspired by Tori, who administered her aptitude test. Tris noticed that Tori had a tattoo of a hawk on the back of her neck during the test, and she later learns that Tori’s main job is working at a tattoo parlor in Dauntless. Tori explains that she used to be afraid of the dark, and that the hawk symbolized the sun in some parts of the ancient world. She concluded that, “if I always had the sun on me, I wouldn’t be afraid of the dark” (12). Tris therefore decides to get her own tattoos as a way of commemorating her past while embracing where she is at present.

When her mother does not react to seeing her tattoos, Tris becomes more relaxed about the process, seeing it as a part of Dauntless life. She consequently gets a tattoo of the Dauntless seal and, later, the symbol of Abnegation. She knows that the latter is a risk but she has accepted her Abnegation past as a part…

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