Divergent Discussion/Analysis: Introduction

by jonnahzkennedy

Listening To: Divergent Soundtrack compiled by Veronica Roth, Hellogoodbye, Breaking Benjamin

One Choice Will Transform You
One Choice Can Destroy you
One Choice Will Define You


What Makes You Different Makes you Dangerous

*I promise I am not some Government Nazi, it’s just one of the many things I feel Veronica Roth is speaking about in her Divergent Trilogy, and if you don’t take the government as it’s literal term, I’m really speaking about people in general–cheers!

It was the winter of 2012 when I first set eyes on Divergent. It was in a Wal-Mart just behind my house. It had been hardcover, on the top shelf above City of Fallen Angels and several of the Harry Potter books, along with it’s predecessor Insurgent. Upon first sight, I believed the book to be not about a girl in a dystopian world where they were split into factions based on personality attributes, but rather, about a girl who could transform into a dragon in modern times. I was really into urban fantasy at the time as I was finishing up Cassandra Clare’s City of Glass, and of course, I had set my eyes on City of Fallen Angels. Anyhow, for a couple of months I rejected it, for at the time, it was noted as the last thing that you want on your book: “The next Hunger Games”. The reason you don’t want this is because you actually get sick with Hunger Games syndrome, as most every book at the time was being called the next Hunger Games (even that awful sounding book called Starters, which has yet to surface again on any charts I have seen), and this would bring up comparisons to the Hunger Games, just as The Hunger Games was compared to Koushun Takami’s novel Battle Royale (and that is one war still being fought, though it has been less in the news lately for the new war between Divergent and The Hunger Games; I suppose that it is in The Hunger Games’s nature to get into wars as the entire trilogy is about war), which I will save for another post at another time. Still, I rejected it for several months, but it wasn’t until the summer that I decided I would give it a try, for by then I actually knew what the book was about, and it was beginning to pick up steam of Veronica Roth slowly gained a fandom, before long the train was rolling and I was lucky enough to be one of the early ones to catch on to it without a hand to help.

So I began reading it. And once you begin reading it, you cannot stop reading it. It was a thrill ride from the moment that Dauntless ran from the Choosing Ceremony, when they jumped onto the train, into the net that lead into the Dauntless compound, to throwing knives and beating each other up, while the stakes were high not to be thrown out of Initiation; for people were hung over the Chasm and stabbed in the eye. Not to mention the fact that Beatrice/Tris was forced to hide the greatest secret of all: her Divergence. The story was an instant favorite and I knew that it was destined for success, and I knew that it was going to rival my love for the Hunger Games, which was slightly diminished by Mockingjay. Within a couple of days, I was reading Insurgent, and by the afternoon of the day after I’d purchased Insurgent, I’d finished and was staring out of my bedroom window with my jaw unhinged and my hands still gripping the book because of that ending (tho). And so the wait began for Allegiant, which at the time hadn’t even been named, which would supposedly be the heart-pounding, action packed finale to the Divergent Trilogy. I was wrong. But that is besides the point, we’re here to talk about Divergent. And we have. Now it’s time to talk about the movie.


Take this section as your very own Initiation from the Divergent World. If you don’t know what Divergent is and what it’s all about, I would recommend reading at least this first paragraph or so; if you are in the know, then skip ahead to the next few paragraphs where I just talk about Divergent as a whole a little bit before we actually get into the movie review and analysis. So, here we go:

 Divergent is set in a dystopian Chicago where society has been split into five factions: Amity the Peaceful, Abnegation the Selfless, Candor the Honest, Dauntless the Brave, and Erudite the Intelligent. Everyone in this society has been born into one of these factions, and when they turn sixteen they take what is known as an Aptitude Test to determine where they belong, which could be in their home faction or another faction. It is at the Choosing Ceremony that you ultimately decide where you would like to live the rest of your days. Of course, it is not that easy for Beatrice Prior who, when taking her Aptitude Test, is labeled Divergent, learns that being Divergent is Dangerous, and as the movie phrases it: what makes you different, makes your dangerous. Beatrice, though, leaves her home faction of Abnegation and transfers to Dauntless, which she soon learns may have been a grave mistake as the Dauntless, in their initiation, have two stages: one that is physical, and one that is mental, and it is when she goes through her Fear landscape that she learns she can control it. Dangerous. As she tries to hide this, others try and find her and tear her apart, namely the Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews who is hiding a dangerous secret about the Divergent and their danger from the world, and will stop at nothing to exterminate them…and her eyes are set closely on Tris. 

So, that is the gist of what Divergent is all about, now let me talk a little bit about it. Many people hate Divergent, because they find it to be very cliche, which is slightly true. The story is, at it’s heart, a story about what makes you different and about being different and why you should be yourself (well, this idea of being different and yourself is mostly amplified in the concluding book Allegiant). Of course, there is more to the metaphor of being Divergent. Veronica Roth it seems, added more to her metaphor because she commentates on our own society who seems to categorize us and forces us to believe that if we do not fit in one place we will never be successful, which is shown in the book and movie by the Factionless, those who could not make it through their Initiation. Roth also seems to use the Divergent world as a kind of playground for her very own High School years, this became obvious to me in the movie, as when Tris and her fellow Initiates first enter the Dauntless cafeteria, they are all huddled together and hold onto what they know instead of embracing their new identity, and that spoke out to me as a way for Veronica Roth to tell us what it is like to be ‘the New Kid’, to be the different one, to come from a place where you were known as one thing, only to come to another place and learn that you are nothing. This is especially true for most any faction that moves to Dauntless, as Dauntless is the greatest metaphor for the beast that is High School or any New School, for all the kids are rowdy, tough, and you don’t understand them, because you have never had the chance to look at your own past versus this new present in order to embrace it. Dauntless is also full of bullies, people who want to be with you, and also tough training which all comes along with being a new environment such as that of Dauntless.

Going on, Divergent is a great  way to see that, you cannot categorize yourself as one thing, ever. No one can be wholly Erudite, for though the Erudite blame ignorance for the worlds problems, they do not realize that they are going against their own beliefs in that:

“Ignorance is not defined as stupidity, but as a lack of knowledge; lack of knowledge inevitably leads to lack of understanding; lack of understanding leads to disconnect among people with differences; disconnection among people with differences leads to conflict; knowledge is the only logical solution to the problem of conflict.”

In that, they hide the truth about their war against the Divergence from people, and they even manipulate people using serums that are meant to better society and to help society function better, which is also stated in their manifesto:

“Intelligence is a gift, not a right. it must be wielded not as a weapon, but as a tool for the betterment of society.”

Yet they use their intelligence to destroy and to wreak havoc on those that they cannot control, when they are in fact the ones with the greatest power and the ones that will ultimately better society. It is with their manifesto’s ideology that, they should not seek to commit mass genocide on Divergents, but to understand them and why they are there in the first place as the final book, Allegiant, helps us realize. But, should we be so critical of the Erudite? Also stated in their Faction Manifesto is that, “Intelligence must be used for the benefit, and not the detriment, of society.” And what we find is that, with the intelligence of Divergence, it ultimately leads to the conflict that the Erudite fear ultimately lead to the war that destroyed their world. And this is where another great piece of commentary comes in on Veronica Roth’s part. Is Veronica Roth actually speaking out against the government in the idea that, they fear if they allow people to know the truth, that it will cause all out war amongst the people and the government? Or do they fear that if the people do know the truth that it will do nothing to benefit society? Either way, we all seem to lose, and maybe that is what Roth is trying to say, but what we also must understand is that, you cannot have Intelligence without Candor.

Candor, the Honest, use glass as their chosen symbol in the Choosing Ceremony. Why is this? Glass is clear, clear is clarity, and clarity is honesty. If Veronica Roth is actually speaking out against the government, then she has done well by including Candor and Erudite in this story, as from the Candor Manifesto, “What has become clear is that, lies are just a temporary solution to a permanent problem.” By this logic, the government would have to understand that, while intelligence might be dangerous and cause conflict, lies may create a permanent problem that can only become temporary by the truth. But what would it take for the government to unveil the truth about their lies? They would have to become dauntless, for as Tris says herself, “It must require bravery to be honest all the time.” (Roth, 2011, p.62)

The Dauntless blame cowardice for the worlds demise, and if this is true, is it really? Let’s look at a couple examples of what happens if we allow cowardice dictates our lies.

  • In The Wizard of Oz, we meat the Cowardly Lion who fears even the smallest of bugs and could not bear to harm any living creature. Even so, by the end of their journey through Oz, the Cowardly Lion finds that it is time for him to prove himself when a not so friendly spider tries to attack them, but he finally stands up for himself and defends Dorothy and this friends. But, what would have happened if the Lion had been far too afraid to stand up to that spider? What if no change at all had happened to him on their journey? The spider would have killed them all, and there would be no going back. Cowardice could have been their demise, but bravery was their savior.
  • Veronica Roth often cites Harry Potter for inspiration and she even notes that she probably will never be able to write one essay without making some reference or analogy concerning Harry Potter; essentially she is a Potterhead. So, in spirit of Mrs. Roth, let’s make a reference to Harry Potter. It is known that, Lily Potter gave her life in order to save Harry, for the most part, as if Harry had been hit with that Avadakadavra Curse head on, and not partly protected by his mother and love, he would have died and there would likely be no ‘Boy Who Lived’ at all, and Voldemort would have gone on his merry way rampaging all of Ireland and then England, and subsequently all of Europe as some Wizarding Napoleon or Hitler, as he would eradicate all Mud bloods and such.
  • In my own spirit, The Hunger Games, is one of my favorite books of all time, and it is the only book I have read more than once (I don’t know why, but it’s incredibly difficult for me to read a book once I’ve already read it; The Hunger Games, though was something unlike anything I’d read before, it was such an inspiration to me and an influence on my writing, along with the fact that it was just such an amazing story, that I had to read it more than once), I would like to make a reference to that as well. In The Hunger Games, probably one of the most courageous things Katniss did in the entire trilogy was that she volunteered as Tribute for her sister Prim. One of the most touching and intense moments I have never read, and a scene that was brought to such full fruition by the amazing Jennifer Lawrence (I will never forget how her voice cracked so naturally as she stepped to save Prim, it was so well done). All in all, in order to literally put your life in such jeopardy like this, especially when you are the most likely of all the tributes from the 12 districts to be killed, is incredibly honorable and brave, just like a Dauntless Warrior. Now, if Katniss had been too afraid of the Games to save her sister, likely Gale would have been too angry with her to even be friends with anymore, Prim would have been killed, as I doubt Peeta would have been so inclined to save Prim even if she was Katniss’s sister; though, Prim and Rue may have been partners, still, they both would ultimately have died; just as at the end of Mockingjay, Katniss would spill into horrible depression and that would be the book, and it wouldn’t have been the phenomenon that it is.

So, this shows that, while you must be erudite in deciding what knowledge is right to pass out, if it all, and you must also decide when it’s the right time to be honest vs. lying, and being brave and secure in your decision. So, if the government or if someone is hiding something from you, and if that knowledge could potentially help you or even save you, what does that say about their courageous character? They surely aren’t ‘GRRRR-RATE!’ as Tony the Tiger often says.

In Divergent, Abnegation is accused of having the greatest Divergent population, and that is why they are targeted by the Erudite, as Abnegation contained two major contenders, which would be our leading roles of Tobias and Beatrice, who Jeanine sought to destroy because of their prominence in the Divergent War. I bring this up because, maybe the Erudite where always right in their suspesion against Erudite, for the Dauntless believe in ordinary acts of bravery, while the Abnegation believe:

“Therefore I chose to turn away/from my reflection/To not rely on myself/ but my brothers and sisters/ to project always outward/ until I disappear.”

And this little snippet from their manifesto begs us to ask the question: how far is selflessness from bravery? Must you not be brave in order to be selfless, and selfless in order to be brave? In The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion had be courageous and selfless enough to step before that spider and attack it, for he had ot be selfless in that he put his life in jeopardy for his friends, and brave in that he fought the spider and defeated his cowardice. So, are Abnegation and Dauntless really all that far apart? Are  abnegation and dauntless actually synonyms? In one of the discussion questions about Divergent, it asks the question, “Do you think that these factions represent every basic personality trait and fulfill all the basic needs of people?” I do believe that these factions represent the basic characteristics of people: everyone has the capability to be peaceful, selfless, honest, brave, and intelligent, and though in Divergent they separate these people, Divergence is normal (as we learn in Allegiant). But, what is more is that, you learn that there are striking parallels between these factions, specifically Abnegation and Dauntless. There may be a reason why many Abnegation either stay in Abnegation or move to Dauntless, or vice-versa (Tris to Dauntless, her mother from Dauntless). It requires great bravery to be selfless, to do for others before you do for yourself, to be brave enough to look away from yourself for months at a time, to preserve plentiful resources and live a less than simple life, if you can truly call it a life at all. And it must require great selflessness in order to become Dauntless, in order to not be afraid to finally put yourself first, to finally see that there is room for your in the world, and it must require a lot of bravery to take the place of a friend as knives fly at your head, or to kill someone you love, to face your fears and face the you that you have suppressed for so long. It is just as you cannot be Erudite without being Candor, and you cannot be Candor without being Erudite. The Erudite seek the truth, they seek the truth in knowledge, and the Candor speak only the truth, making them just as factual and intellectual as the Erudite, and the Erudite will refuse to speak lies or false facts that have not been proven, tested, or accepted by their community. Both Candor and Erudite use clarity as their symbols, Erudite with water and Candor with glass, both represent the transparency in honesty and truth, and how the world should be a truthful and honest place. But where to the Amity fit into all of this?

The Amity lie in order to keep peace, they use serums in order to make sure that everyone is happy, they speak with one another before confirming a decision, they do not work alone, but as a team; in simplest terms, the Amity seem to be the only faction of them all that hold most every personality trait. In order to have peace, you must lie but you must also know when to tell the truth , for the truth is a powerful beast of a thing and, “Like a wild animal, the truth is too powerful to be caged.” (From the Candor Manifesto). In order to have peace you must also have knowledge, but just as with superpowers, with great knowledge comes great responsibility, and just as with any fact, any truth could destroy and turn society to rubble, but you cannot have society without unsaid knowledge and hidden truths, which is why it is important to hold both erudite and candor qualities. The Amity, as already said, also do not do things as one and are highly conservative (“REMEMBER TO CONSERVE RESOURCES, SHOWERS RUN FOR ONLY FIVE MINUTES” (Roth, 2012, p.13)) which are traits of Abnegation, which of course sways them to a far more Abnegatious personality than the two prior of erudite and candor, but it is still a trait. Yet, where is their bravery? In truth, I have had a hard time to find such Bravery, but I think that their bravery is found in Insurgent, in Johanna Reyes’s actions to protect Tris and her friends as they hide from the Erudite, but also their knowing of other faction customs such as the Dauntless handshake. In Divergent, we learn that Tobias has tattoos of all the factions all down his back, which is a key indicator that he is in fact, Divergent, and that is dangerous. So, this knowing of customs makes the Amity dangerous because they accept all factions instead of sectionalizing themselves off to only Amity as most every other faction has done to themselves. It is this kind of bravery that completes Amity’s war for peace, as they carry all the factions with them and use them in their life, so that they can be peaceful as their name suggests. The Amity are the only ones, it seems, who isolated themselves from the Divergent War for as long as they could, until the finale in Allegiant, as we see the Amity wield guns, which is far from peaceful, but it shows beyond their colors that they have the blood of Dauntless running through their veins. So, would it have been so wrong for Jeanine to think that the Amity were really the ones with the largest Divergent population? No, but it’s just a matter of statistics I suppose.

So, I will conclude this introduction here, as I hope you now have a greater understand of how the great patchwork of the Divergent world works, and ho each faction is like another, how our world would be a terrible place if we lived in this faction system, and what will lead us through the path of the Divergent Trilogy (from the initial scene in Divergent to the final scene in Allegiant. In this series where I talk and analyse Divergent, I hope to share my love of this world with others who love this world, and really get down and dirty to discuss it’s many ups and downs pros and cons, and ultimately, talk a lot about Dystopian fiction!