Tris (or Beatrice, if you want to get kicked in the shins), our narrator, is independent to a fault. Her main conflict throughout Insurgent is one of choice: does she go along with her boyfriend, Tobias, because, well, he's her boyfriend; or does she go along with her instincts?
Sometimes we wonder why she's even in a relationship. All she and Tobias seem to do is fight, and when they start kissing, she pulls away. At one point, she even starts thinking, "Independent […] and uninvolved. Must be nice" (4.13). She's technically talking about the faction system here, but it feels like the same thought could be applied to her romantic relationship, too.
Let's be real: Tris doesn't play well with others. Her "friends" include Lynn, whom she bristles at being around; Christina, who is mad at her for most of the book for killing her boyfriend, Will, in Divergent; and Tobias, the aforementioned boyfriend who is the source of more of conflict than of love and support.
Most of this external conflict stems from Tris's internal conflict. As someone who is Divergent (that means she can belong to more than one faction), she's having an identity crisis. She's not happy with herself: "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). Toward the end of the novel, when she decides that she's insurgent (title shout-out) as well as divergent, she becomes even more conflicted about her identity and her fate than she was at the beginning of the novel.
Tris needs to make an identity for herself. The identity she chooses is martyr. A lot of this stems from guilt (she wants to die to make up for killing Will), and a lot of it comes from the ideals she takes from her factions, especially Abnegation and Dauntless. "My mother said that everyone is selfish […] But I became less selfish in Dauntless. I discovered there were people I would fight for. Die for" (11.117).
Does dying for someone else make her less selfish, or are her suicidal tendencies evidence of how selfish she really is? Granted, she's only explicitly suicidal once (that time after the interrogation when she considers jumping out the window), but she's often rushing headfirst into deadly situations without any regard for the fact that she might die.
In fact, many times throughout the novel, Tris acts as though death would be the most favorable outcome. When she says, "Somewhere in the darker parts of me, I crave destruction" (9.77), we have to wonder if the only thing she wants to destroy is herself. Tris, try playing Jenga or something for a change if you want to knock things down.
When Jeanine does the brain scan and other tests on Tris, she comes to the conclusion that "[Tris] is not reward motivated […] This explains her tendency toward harmful-but-selfless behavior and, perhaps, her ability to wriggle out of situations" (29.90). If Tris isn't motivated by material rewards, what is her goal? What is her motivation? Or does she have none? Is that lack of direction the cause of her frustration?
Tris is also conflicted about the differences between her external appearance and her internal drive. Describing herself, she says, "I know that I am birdlike, made narrow and small as if for taking flight, built straight-waisted and fragile" (5.56). She's one step away from avian bone syndrome, if you ask us.
But as we mentioned, she has this desire for destruction that doesn't really befit a little blonde girl. The upside is that when she does manage to stand up for herself, she shocks her enemies, who see her as a little girl. The downside is that sometimes she chokes under pressure, perpetuating the belief that she's a harmless child.
So how does Tris deal with this? Well, she hides her emotions. We hardly ever see her act out of anything but anger. The one time she cries is when she's isolated in her jail cell. She says, "I think we cry to release the animal parts of us without losing our humanity" (30.2). So she thinks that emotions are "animalistic"—and that her cold, stoic nature is evidence of her humanity.
Do you think she'd be happier if she stopped trying to separate these two things, stopped acting as if they are warring factions within her?