Guest Post: The Christlike Sacrificial Deaths of Tris and Harry

Tris the Christlike? A comparison of some Christlike qualities of Tris Prior and Harry Potter

Isaiah Mary Molano, OP

Many of my fellow Hogpro fans are disappointed with Allegiant. However, Veronica Roth’s work is not in vain. I would propose that we peer into the Tris of the last 20 pages and see that there is a solid attempt to insist that Tris is a Christlike character. I would like to propose to compare and contrast this with the Harry’s ending in the Dark Forest and see how the two Christlike scenes come off each other.

Now, short review session. To my knowledge, when it comes the Christlike arcs in both stories, the common three sections seem to follow: (1) an act of self-sacrifice, (2) a resurrection scene, and (3) a demonstration of a change of character of a deeper knowledge of a theme of the overall work. (Self-sacrifice is almost always motivated by love for another, a freely made decision to die for another for their sakes without caring about the costs of self.)

Any Harry Potter fanatic worth a box of every-flavor beans would have the images of Harry’s death scene engraved in their minds. Harry explicitly knows what he is doing. He puts on his cloak and intentionally avoids people that will take him away from his sacrificial act. He avoids Ron and Hermoine, he thinks of Ginny, he avoids the Order. The only person he does talk to his Neville, and it was for a perfectly sensible reason and Neville would not have had the power to persuade Harry from his sacrificial act.

While he is dead, he has a vision with Dumbledore, who himself is angelic. They discuss the deeper themes of the entire saga—love, sacrifice, death, even the quest for immortality. And when Harry is resurrected, he has knowledge that will propel him to defeat Voldemort in a profound way. In a sense, it is not the Elder Wand that saves Harry and destroys Voldemort. Rather, it is Harry’s experiential knowledge, and Voldemort’s ignorance, of love and sacrifice that saves the day. Harry’s deep knowledge of love and sacrifice saves himself and Hogwarts and all his loves. And it is this very knowledge that destroys Lord Voldemort.

While in the King’s-Cross-of-Harry’s-mind, he obtains this knowledge in its fullness and can come back to his friends and save them via the very same magic that saved him 16 years prior.

In comparison and contrast, we have Tris Prior of the Divergent series. I think we’ve all lost our breath when Tris said, “Caleb, give me the backpack.” We’ve all fallen in love with this spontaneous girl, and all knew exactly what she was going to do. And I would bet that we all had the same reaction. And moreover, when she said, “Tell Tobias that I didn’t want to leave him,” you can have one of two reactions—tears or anger—and I was angry. Like Harry, she had only one message before she went to her death, and it was given to someone she knew that could not persuade her to change her mind. She even rationalizes that perhaps she can survive the death serum. She thinks of Tobias, and her parents and Christina. And she sacrifices her life for the sake of her city—a community whom she loves (even the Erudite), a community in which a grave injustice is being done.

However, when she passes through her veil of death the first time, she stands up and accidentally faces her accuser, her Satan figure—David. She is changed—insofar that she discovers that she, like David, is immune to the death serum. She discovers (to David’s ignorance in a nice twist of irony) that she has perfect genes, the perfect immune system—a superwoman whose genes ought to be preserved in perpetuity.

Though she goes through the veil of death serum, she falls onto the floor, and rises, on the other side. Yet unlike in the formulaic Christ arcs, she does not come away changed (in a human, immaterial sort of way) and she eventually dies again, never to return. Unlike Christ, who promises to come back after he has ascended, we do not know where Tris goes.

She does not obtain deeper knowledge. Harry learns how to be selfless and sacrificial. Through his sufferings, psychological, emotional and physical, he learns compassion and unconditional love. After her “resurrection” she learns that David loved Natalie. She learns that Natalie knew that she willingly died for the sake of her son and daughter. Yet she doesn’t learn deeper. She simply learns more.

Moreover, I think that Harry’s deeper learning of compassion and unconditional love weighs more potently upon the reader. We fall in love with Sirius and Hedwig and Fred in ways that we cannot love Will and Albert and Uriah. Rowling gave us those quiet moments in which we can laugh with Sirius and Fred, those times in which we wished we were feeding Hedwig. I suggest that we do not get the same quiet times with Will, Albert and Uriah simply because of Tris’ frenetic and short life.

Tris Prior is almost a Christ character. I think the mechanics of the Divergent world hinders the possibility for her to be a Christ character in the fullest sense. The trilogy lives in a world in which personality is reduced, and is caused by, material genes. In other words, Tris having a conversation with Natalie on the train, in which Tris asks if their conversation is real or inside her head, doesn’t seems to fit the concept of the Divergent world. Tris’ world is too materialistic, it seems, to allow immateriality to reside.

We come really close to allowing Tris to be a Christlike character. It’s just that she doesn’t seem to have acquired deeper knowledge of love and sacrifice. But then again, all Christians are called to be Christlike characters in our own stories, and repeatedly fail. And perhaps, that is part of the point.


  1. Louise Freeman says

    Very interesting perspective, Fr. Molano. I am wondering if the Tri of Tris’s name could not be interpreted as a reference to the trinity as well as her triply Divergent mind. After all , when she is finally “finished” she returns to the embrace of her Parent, and the memory of her serves as a type of Holy Spirit, first persuading Tobias not to do himself in, then eventually getting him to overcome his fear and climb to the top of the Hancock Tower to spread her essence over the city.

  2. “Yet she doesn’t learn deeper. She simply learns more.”

    I agree – Tris didn’t seem to grow in the last book, whereas Harry really has to come to terms with what Dumbledore has left him, thereby growing throughout his horcrux quest.

    I also wonder if, had we known Natalie better – not young Natalie as David’s love, but Natalie as Tris’s mom and role model, had we been given more scenes between Tris and her mother, we could understand Tris’s sacrifice better. Dumbledore’s insight had such weight in Harry Potter because we had had six years of Dumbledore’s advice to Harry.

    “I suggest that we do not get the same quiet times with Will, Albert and Uriah simply because of Tris’ frenetic and short life.”

    I also agree that the pacing of the trilogy did the deeper themes a disservice. We had some quiet time in Divergent – the zipline scene is a “quiet” moment for me, a non plot-driven but a moment to show Tris enjoying herself in Dauntless – but restless pacing of the rest of the series don’t allow these moments to exist. Perhaps that is why Tris doesn’t seem to grow as a character, after her initial journey of finding her own identity in Divergent, we are so busy running with her from faction headquarters to bureau headquarters, so busy struggling to process new information and new plot developments, that we/Tris have very little time to reflect?

Speak Your Mind