Study Guide

Insurgent Guilt

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Before I open my eyes, I watch him crumple to the pavement again. Dead. My doing. (1.3-1.4)

This book opens with Tris sticking her key in the ignition to begin a hundred-page-long guilt trip. Not that we blame her. Shooting a friend, even when you feel you're forced to do it, isn't an easy thing to overcome. Not that we're speaking from experience.

I shove the gun beneath it and let the mattress bury it. (2.5)

Tris is going with the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to assuaging her guilt. We're not sure if this is going to work, or if that smoking gun is going to turn into a something like the telltale heart, a ticking time bomb reminding her of what she's done.

I can't tell [Tobias] that I'm having nightmares about Will, or I would have to explain why. (5.43)

Telling your boyfriend that you're dreaming of another man is hard. Telling him that you're dreaming of another man you killed one time is even harder. However, by keeping it from Tobias, Tris is just layering guilt on top of guilt here. It's a seven-layer dip of guilt, without the guacamole.

Maybe time would not feel as heavy if I didn't have this guilt—the guilt of knowing the truth and stuffing it down where no one can see it, not even Tobias. (11.49)

Guilt weighs Tris down. Maybe that's why every one of her moves takes so much effort: all that guilt makes her weigh twenty more pounds.

Maybe I can fight the serum. But I don't know if I should try. It might be better for the people I love if I come clean. (12.92)

Plotwise, this is a nice way for Tris to absolve her guilt. She overcomes the truth serum, but she still confesses the truth. That makes her, like, extra not guilty now, right?

Lie-detector test. Truth serum. I have to remind myself. It is too easy to get lost in honesty. (12.120)

For someone who is guilty about pretty much everything, telling the truth can feel like going to the gym after years of inactivity. It can feel good and be kind of addicting to actually be honest for once. It's healthy.

I was willing to die rather than kill Tobias, but the thought never occurred to me when it came to Will. I decided to kill Will in a fraction of a second. (12.156)

Ah, here we see an even deeper reason for Tris's guilt. She feels guilty that she didn't love Will enough to save him. She feels guilty that she only saves boys she's romantically attracted to. Yeah, well, maybe that is something to feel kind of guilty about. Unless you're her boyfriend, you do not want your life to be in this girl's hands.

I am tired of being Tris. I have done bad things. I can't take them back, and they are part of who I am. Most of the time, they seem like the only thing I am. (13.26)

When Tris is unable to focus on anything other than her extreme guilt, she becomes suicidal. This even happens after she confesses the truth to everyone. Is there anything she can do to overcome these terrible feelings?

I see a flicker of movement in the mirror, and before I can stop myself, I stare at my reflection. This is how I looked to him, I think. This is how I looked when I shot [Will]. (21.5)

Tris cannot pick up a gun without feeling guilty for shooting Will. She definitely realizes that guns don't kill people… she kills people. Trying to rationalize to herself that it was something she had to do is really difficult.

This lie—this lie is the worst I have ever told. I will never be able to take it back. (38.63)

Tris feels guilty about lying to Tobias for basically the same reason she feels guilty for shooting Will: she doesn't feel that she has any other choice. Do you think that if she just owned up and took responsibility for her own actions, she might feel better about them?

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