Study Guide

Insurgent Themes

  • Guilt

    Unless we're talking about sociopaths, guilt is a pretty common emotion. You might feel guilty about spending too much money, eating too many cookies, or shooting your best friend after he's been brainwashed to kill you. Can't we all relate?

    From the first page of Insurgent on, Tris feels guilty about that last one, and guilt is an emotion that drives her actions for the entire book. She ends up lying, cheating, and lying some more, and all these things take their toll on her psyche. At least she doesn't try to fix things by chowing down on piles of cake…

    Questions About Guilt

    1. What does Tris feel guilty about? How does her guilt affect her actions?
    2. How does Tris manage to absolve herself of guilt? Does she still feel guilty about anything at the end of the novel?
    3. Does Tobias feel guilty about anything? Could guilt be a reason why he decides to side with his mother over his father?

    Chew on This

    Honesty is the best cure for a guilty conscience. Tris starts to feel better about her actions when she's honest about them to Christina and Tobias.

    Even though Tris is sometimes crippled by guilt, it doesn't stop her from making certain choices. She's definitely the "act first, feel guilty later" type.

  • Loyalty

    In Insurgent, the factions are kind of like sports teams. People wear the colors of whomever they're aligned with, and they act as though their faction (or favorite team) can do no wrong. Almost all the factions think of themselves as the New England Patriots, even the ones who are actually more like the Arizona Cardinals.

    Loyalty is a big deal within the factions. People are expected to act as their faction expects them to act and never deviate. This becomes quite a problem with Tris, who is Divergent and can be a part of any faction. She can't even decide whether to be loyal to her boyfriend or to her boyfriend's father, the two of whom have opposing ideas on what's best for the city. Perhaps the only person Tris can be loyal to is herself?

    Questions About Loyalty

    1. Why are some people loyal to their factions and some people not? Do the factionless have any loyalty?
    2. Why is being disloyal practically a crime worse than murder in this society?
    3. Who is Tris loyal to? Does she tend to be disloyal because of her Divergence?
    4. Why does Caleb choose to pledge his loyalty to Jeanine instead of Tris?

    Chew on This

    Putting such a high value on loyalty makes the people more divided, because people stay within their factions instead of associating with anyone else.

    Loyalty that is dictated by laws or rules isn't real loyalty. Only actions and choices made freely can be considered truly loyal.

  • Choice

    The tagline for Divergent was "One Choice Can Transform You." The tagline for this one: "One Choice Can Destroy You."

    Yikes. That's morbid, huh? The tension in Insurgent is cranked up to eleven as most of the choices have serious—and sometimes deadly—consequences. To top it all off, Tris has way more choices to make in this book than in the last one, so her chances of being destroyed are pretty great.

    So, will Tris stay with her faction or change allegiance? Will she forget factions altogether? Will she work with Tobias or with Marcus? Will she prefer Dauntless cake or mashed potato sandwiches? The wrong choice can be fatal.

    Questions About Choice

    1. Why does Tris choose to go with Marcus instead of Tobias in the end? Do you think she made the right choice?
    2. What do you think is the most difficult choice Tris has to make in Insurgent?
    3. Why does Tobias choose to align with his mother, Evelyn, instead of his father, Marcus? Do you think he made the right choice?
    4. Think of the tagline for the book. What choices end up destroying people?

    Chew on This

    Despite everything we're saying about the importance of choice, Tris's choices actually have no meaning whatsoever. Everything important is being controlled by the adults behind the scenes, like Evelyn and Jeanine.

    This is a society that tries to eliminate choice by putting people into factions and making them stay there. Any choice is viewed as the wrong choice by these people.

  • Identity

    When the Sorting Hat puts you into House Gryffindor… oh, oops, wrong book.

    When the aptitude test puts you into the Dauntless faction, you might think life is all set. You get to be reckless and violent whenever you want, and that's just who you are.

    But things aren't that easy for Tris. She's still coping with the fact that she's Divergent, which she figured out at the beginning of the last book. In Insurgent, she has to figure out not just what makes her, well, her; she also has to deal with the fact that she might be an insurgent, too.

    That's a lot of confusion at any age, but it's especially crazy for a sixteen-year-old struggling to figure out her identity. She's Divergent and Insurgent. What else could she possibly be? Pungent? A superagent? A box of detergent?

    Questions About Identity

    1. Being Divergent, does Tris have a harder time defining her own identity than most other people do?
    2. Do people choose their faction based on their identity, or does their faction define their identity?
    3. Will being factionless make it easier or more difficult for people to define themselves?
    4. Why is Tris so touchy about being called "little girl"?

    Chew on This

    Even though Tobias has an easy time identifying himself as Dauntless (he's strong, heroic, a leader) he still experiences some inner conflict about who he really is.

    Tris spends a lot of time running away from her true nature. If she'd accept who she really is (reckless, passionate, angry), she might be happier with herself.

  • Mortality

    There are tons of guns in this novel, and where you find tons of guns, you usually find lots of death. Postapocalyptic Chicago feels like a warzone at times, and death comes with the territory disputes.

    Tris carries a lot of death around with her. Both of her parents died in a blaze of sacrificial glory at the end of the last novel, and Tris herself has killed a man, albeit in self-defense. She has to cope with all these deaths and try to come to terms with her own inevitable demise over the course of Insurgent.

    Questions About Mortality

    1. Do you think Tris is brave or suicidal?
    2. Why does Tris want to die? What makes her change her mind?
    3. How do the Dauntless view death? Does this explain Tris's behavior?
    4. Why does it take so long for Tris to get over shooting Will? Do you think Tobias feels similar about shooting Eric?

    Chew on This

    Tris has an easier time accepting her own death because her parents died with a purpose (also because she is both Abnegation and Dauntless). If she can give her own death a purpose, she has no problem with dying.

    Tris is also Erudite, which causes her to think of death in a logical manner. Her conclusion: it's not logical for her to die. Yet.

  • Rules

    Sometimes the divided city feels like a really elaborate game. Everyone is divided up into five different teams, or factions, and forced to battle it out. Could everyone just be LARPing really hardcore?

    The rules define everyone's lifestyles. (Or do their lifestyles define the rules?) The Abnegation are expected to be selfish. The Dauntless are brave. The Erudite are brainy, to a fault. The Amity are all sunshine and butterflies, and the Candor are brutally honest.

    In Insurgent, some people in this world think the rules work just fine (those are usually the ones who are winning), some throw a hissy fit (those would generally be the losers), while others want to hit reset and start the game over.

    Questions About Rules

    1. What new rules do you learn in Insurgent that you didn't know from Divergent?
    2. Do people always obey the rules of their faction? What happens when they don't?
    3. Do the rules of the faction system make sense to you? If not, how would you change them?

    Chew on This

    The city is a good place to live because the rules define every aspect of life. It's like having a built-in etiquette manual for every situation.

    Or, the city is a terrible place to live because the rules go against human nature. The more it is controlled, the more likely people are to rebel.

  • Family

    The family is a unit. Every family has its own unique customs, mannerisms, history, and way of dealing with (and causing) problems. No family is isolated. Families have to interact with each other, whether it's at school functions, weddings, holidays, and, well, funerals.

    When you think about it, families are like little factions. So in Insurgent, we have factions within factions (and if you take a look at the identity crises most of the characters are going through, we have factions within factions within factions. We're paging Christopher Nolan for the sequel.) Do families distill the rules of their factions down to the simplest elements, or do they simply complicate things further?

    Questions About Family

    1. How does losing her mom and dad affect Tris? Are there any decisions you think she'd make differently if they were still alive?
    2. Does being Marcus and Evelyn's son make life easier for Tobias, or harder?
    3. How do you think Caleb is coping with the death of his parents?
    4. What other families do you see in the novel? How are families and factions similar, and how are they different?

    Chew on This

    Tris's family is a combination of Erudite (on her dad's side) and Abnegation (on her mom's side), so it's no surprise that Tris is Divergent. She's a combination of both her parents' basic qualities.

    Marcus is Abnegation, which is why he doesn't put his relationship with his son first. He will sacrifice his family for what he feels is the good of the city.

  • Fear

    Fear was our number two theme in Divergent. It's dropped in the ranks a bit, because in Insurgent, fear is not as much of a factor for either Tris or Tobias, who are learning to cope with their fear.

    But some fears get worse in this novel. Maybe people only have a finite capability for fear, and the less afraid you are of some things, the more afraid you become of the things that really freak you out? Just some food for thought.

    Questions About Fear

    1. How do Tobias's fears change over the course of the novel? Is he able to overcome any of his fears? (And if he does, will we have to call him "Two" or "Three"?)
    2. What is Tris afraid of?
    3. Are people more afraid of the faction system failing, or of not having factions altogether?
    4. How does Jeanine use fear to manipulate and control people? Does anyone else in the novel use fear as a method of control?

    Chew on This

    Tris starts to learn the roots of her fears in Insurgent. For example, her fear of guns results from her extreme guilt over shooting Will.

    Tobias's fears become clearer in Insurgent. He used to be afraid of having to kill a nameless woman. Now the woman has a name and a face: it's Tris. As he gets closer to her, his fears are more focused and defined.