A Dark Chest of Wonders

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Tag: high school


Today, in my English class, we were given a prompt for which we will write an essay on tomorrow. We’re about to start 1984, a book that has been on my to-read list for some time now, and I think that this is the perfect setting to do it in. To be sure, I have always taken the books we read–anything in English–quite seriously, because above math, above science, English teaches you to be human, truly. For this matter, every essay where we only had to answer the prompt accordingly, I took it as an opportunity to really take a look at the literature that we were reading, and this is mostly because I believe one day, people are going to want to read my little High School essays. Not to mention, I’m allergic to mediocrity, therefore, to only do the bare-minimum doesn’t sit well in my gut. Why use only one color paint, or only a small part of the canvas, if you have the whole canvas to do whatever you want? Why would I only do what is required when I can do what is required plus one in order to satiate my questions, my considerations. The point of it is, not many people English–school for that matter–as seriously as I do, but English mostly. Anyways, the prompt we’re given asks us to create an argument based on a critics views of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984, which is that, Huxley’s dream of the world to come is more relevant.

Considering that which was given to us, one finds that Huxley is obviously the true Nostradamus.  Orwell’s vision of the future is one that is construed with paranoia and simple lecturing; Orwell feared the day that the world turned over to Communism. In a patriotic kind of way, as an American, I can root for Orwell and say, yeah, down with big government and secrecy, but that’s as far as I can take it. Orwell’s prose is very archaic, or maybe it’s simply that I find it to be non-literary. Huxley’s very first two paragraphs are littered with language that anyone could admire, while Orwell has the kind of addictive quality you get out of the cheesy and redundant YA novels of the era, and I suppose that’s where they get their cliche from. This is not to say that Orwell was not a convincing nor a non-compelling author, rather, he was just not very effective with his language in the way that he could have been with a novel like 1984, especially with a predecessor like Brave New World. All this is to say, though, that Huxley is more alike to a professor, a scientist, or a philosopher; Orwell reminds me of the guy who rants in front of your college, on his soapbox, as he pounds his fist in the air crying out his favorite phrase, “DOWNWITHBIGBROTHERDOWNWITHBIGBROTHERDOWNWITHBIGBROTHER”, Orwell’s vision is archaic and only, truly, good from a historical stand point. While Orwell manages to create compelling arguments on the idea of government spying and secrecy on its people in order to keep them in check, which is certainly relevant in the modern age, it’s but a stepping stone of what Huxley envisioned. Huxley looks at the whole of the picture, not only a small part of the canvas as Orwell does. In this way, we find that Huxley’s vision might be the correct one, in the long run. Brave New World addresses the problem of community and society today: teenagers–my pupils–are consumed by themselves, we are consumers are consumed by ourselves, we are as much a product as the products we buy on late night infomercials and the ads on the sides of your screen catered just for you by AdSense. We are not ourselves!

Chuck Palahniuk tells us that we are not our car, our job, our wallet, yet we are! People would rather know that they have everything that they want, that they are comfortable before they are uncomfortable, rather than knowing that the world is not centered around them. Many people take a stance against my generation, when we are only a product of the world for which the previous generation helped to create. We are self centered because the technology that we used is centered around us. Siri asks us what we would like to be called, we can choose what we want Siri to sound like; we are told that our parents took up a second job for our benefit, we are told that we are being forced to do this and this for our benefit. Do you understand? We are constantly told that this is the ME generation, and thus we have been indoctrinated into the Cult of Self. This is our great transgression, our great demise: the things we love, what we believe to be “us”, is what’s killing us, as Huxley feared. We’ve all be diagnosed with Stockholm Syndrome and are in love with our captors, our iPhones. In these ways, one can only agree with Huxley.

YET! As I listen to a podcast–Ear Biscuits with Rhett and Link, Good Mythical Morning–the guest being the co-creator of reddit, Alexis Ohanian, they’ve started talking about how the internet, social media, is a reflection of society as a whole. While there is a large group of people who would try and misuse sites like reddit, Vine, Instagram, and Facebook for porn, there is an even larger group of people who would oppose it, and an even larger group still who are decent human beings. We find that, overall, as a society, we really do only want to advance, and the way that we advocate this is through social media. By cultivating virtual communities where we congregate to talk about cheese melts, Doctor Who, and suicide, we are creating a society where we are not captive at all: we are our governors, we are our own masters, we are, in a sense, the vision of communism realized. The Internet is in fact the utopia for which writers such as Orwell and Huxley have been searching for. There are those who may try to thwart it–that is the issue of net neutrality–but you simply cannot. In this way, I agree neither with Huxley or Orwell, or more aptly, the critic who contrasted the two to begin with, since that is what the prompt ask.

This is learning. This is what I think the purpose of school is: to make you truly think about the subjects for which you are being compelled to write about, not for a grade, but for the thrill of exploring such topics and how they will effect you. This is how we are created. Some of my pupils only come to make true those things for which Huxley predicted: they have become the captives of their iPhones, they have become the captives of their own filtered reflection. This is my confliction, but, I have never been more pleased to be conflicted.

We only have forty minute to write the essay, by hand, and I wrote this in something like 10 minutes. Let’s hope I can come to some stance by tomorrow.


Yet Another Comment on Divergent: BuzzFeed Edition!

So, here we are again. With yet another one of my long winded comments about Divergent. I can’t make any gaureentees that this will be my last comment on any website. I’m sorry for all the poor souls who dare to read my incredibly long comments. Here it is folks! ‘I personally have several things to say about Divergent. Firstly, Divergent gets a lot of hate, simply because a lot people who have either not read the book or seen the movie are angry about several things (That I don’t necessarily agree with, by the way!): 

  • How have they lived behind this Fence for so long? How come it always take this long for them to finally go beyond?
  • The book/movie is bloated
  • The writing is sloppy
  • The characters are weak and others. I would like to note a few things, though. -Roth wrote Divegrent over a Winter Break, which (I’m only in High School, I don’t know how long it is in college) is 2 weeks. So, there’s that to think about. Honestly, no ‘amazing’ books ever come out of that much time writing. -I’m holding to the idea that Roth was somewhat forced by her professor who read it to publish it. I mean, I know she had been looking for an agent, but it seemed like he was the one who really pushed her.
  • It’s a YA novel that takes on a whole new idea of a dystopian world, and for a writer like Roth (as far as I know), it’s pretty daunting to have to try and make this world as real, thrilling, and great as possible when a)you are writing this story from a first person perspective and b)you’re having to handle this very ‘cliche’ idea that this character is the ‘I’m different’ character (which turns out to be a total fluke by the final book, and that was one of my biggest problems about Allegiant as it was a total anticlimax of the greatest kind) while adding something exciting and new to the story. This has always been the challenge when you write books (I would know, it is a challenge I’m facing with my own dystopian, in fact, the character is completely normal, he just happened to be very, very unlucky; I could have chosen any other of the people in the book. I think that’s always a better story, when your character just happens to be that unlucky soul, by chance, not by genetics or a God, just unlucky, it’s much more believable in my opinion) 

Anyhow, now that I have that out of the way, let me go on. Divergent had a lot of cool ideas and a lot of things going for it. Roth’s original intention, I assume, was to play with the psychological aspects of this future where we are very dependent on serums and simulations (though, I must admit, she went way overboard with it in the finale), of course, this did not come off very well in the way that she wrote it, as she was very focused on the action aspects of it all, but one thing that bothered me was that, I felt that she had the potential to go deeper, but she didn’t. A lot of Tris’s inner thoughts are condensed to one sentence, and are very limited. I don’t believe that YA novels should be condensed and limited like this, I think that YA novels can be just a brainy and deep as any other novel (we only separate them because of their characters, which is stupid to me), but she failed to it. Where she could have delved into the true meaning of fear, the morality of serums and experiments (like this whole trilogy was, writing wise, no spoilers I hope), she did not tread.

The reason that this is no Hunger Games (I have never compared it, but I will now based on it’s genre and success), is because it does not express these ideas fully or go deeper into these problems as she should have.  The reason Suzanne Collins’s books were more widely read are for a couple of reasons, though: a) Collins was already an established author by the time the fist Hunger Games book came out, with her Gregor the Overlander series (it’s even read in schools, widely, today, so that always is a factor in an authors future success) b) Scholastic, I don’t know how they do it honestly, is incredibly well at selling and marketing their books c) The Hunger Games was one of the early dystopian books in this little era of YA dystopia that really set things off, and it caught on like fire, and finally d) the only other factor in Collins’s success is that she is a very good author. If a writer can write well, then their books will sell. But, know that I’m not calling Veronica Roth a bad writer, but these are her Freshman novels, she has plenty of more novels to write, and by the time she writes her next one, she’ll have refined her skill and likely her next series will be a great improvement on the Divergent Series. 

Anyhow, what Collins’s books have also brought to the table is that they took on very broad issues in a very entertaining way. Where Roth focus’s on a small population (yes, teenagers do make up a great population, but there is a population within that that would have read Divergent) of: The New Kids, those kids who suffer from anxiety as she had, those who don’t know their place, etc. This is all became very obvious to me after having seen the movie, as it was never so obvious that Tris and her initiate friends were quite literally the new kids at the school who had no where to sit in the cafeteria; in fact, Divergent does a very good job of using that as a metaphor: the training that takes up a great majority of the book (too large of a majority for my liking) is something like a metaphor for you beating the odds, beating the bullies, or becoming part of this population of people who have only just met. The mental part of the training was a metaphor for facing your fears, doubts, and anxiety that comes with being the new fish (This is a big one in Tris’s first simulation scene where she attacked by the crows: the crows are the Dauntless, or all the factions maybe, who are pecking and picking at her, attacking her and taking her down; she is afraid of being beaten and not accepted, torn apart by those around her, which is also a way Roth explains her own fears in life, which is a very common thing for writers to do as it’s the only thing we can do to explain and make peace with our lives as they were and are). Most of all though, most blatantly, the first book is primarily about the titles namesake and really being Divergent, for Veronica Roth is really trying to get people to understand that, you can’t fit into one place: you cannot simply be a jock (Dauntless), a popular (I’m not totally sure with this one, I’d assume that it would be Amity or Candor), a nerd (Erudite), a ‘normal’ person (Abnegation); you can be more than one thing or all of those things, because no one is simply one thing, we are far to diverse to be classified that way (in some ways like we classify each other by our skin color, or a dog by its origin or fur color, etc.).  One other thing, that I have mentioned before in another comment on another site, is that Veronic Roth is likely speaking out against authority, as what teenager doesn’t hate authority at some point or another? Divergence is dangerous is a common phrase that is thrown at you throughout the movie and the book, and this is to say that if you cannot conform you’re going to be eaten alive by that big bad world (which could also be true for high school, as if you don’t fit into one place specifically, you’ll be sort of lost because there would be almost nowhere for you to turn, and you’ll be Factionless). 

Still, back to Suzanne Collins, Collins focuses on broader issues such as the worlds obsession with television (many people say they don’t watch television in the conventional way, but you are still watching TV on something whether it be Netflix, Hulu, HBO, or some other service, ‘The world will be watching’ always; she also focuses on war, as even today it’s still a big issue (which is really, really sad, but it’s in our nature to fight as demonstrated in both books) which many of us can relate to (the only downside to Collins’s war comment she speaks through her books is that, she seems to be obsessed with war in all of her books, and it gets tedious to always know that she was often worried about her father (Katniss’s father died in the coal mines, which is a metaphor for how Collins lost her father in the war, at least I think she did, my memory is spotty as I write this); she also talks about class divisions (this is talked about in both books, but Collins’s is stronger, Roth’s falls apart somewhere between Insurgent and Allegiant) and our obsession with material things; she also goes on to talk about our other obsession with violence. If you haven’t noticed yet, humans are very obsessive, greedy, horrible creatures, who at the same time can be selfless, caring, and ultimately beautiful (which is part of our own beauty, because we are just that complex). 

As I draw to a close, a comment about dystopia. Dystopia is not about ruined buildings, how horrible you can make that ficitious world, or showing us where our technology will go, in the end, Dystopia is truthfully about making a commentary on our world, because Dystopia is showing us what happens when our goal for a Utopia ultimately fails because of our flaws in human nature and our flaws that we fail to see in the mirror that is so cracked, it’s clear to us now. Dystopia is about trying to really show people the negative aspects of our society and how it can be our great demise or how one thing will affect another thing, for it is the greatest example and tool for cause and effect. It is also a way to show us how history can repeat itself or how valuable history is. Dystopian writing was founded on this, it was founded on this idea that if we can say something about an issue, then we can say it and make it as impactful and important as we want. 

So now, my conclusion. Divergent is a hit, but yes, it is no Hunger Games, and it will never be. I personally don’t care how much a movie or a book makes, if it’s on a bestseller list, or some other superfluous thing; it’s about the impact it makes on society, maybe not always in the long run, but in some way, it has an impact on society or at least one person. Hunger Games has had the chance to do that and it took that chance, it has impacted a lot of people, and based on where it has come to, people really care. Divergent has left it’s mark on me, honestly, without Roth I would have never realized how generalized and limited our world view could be, I would have never realized that there are truly basic morals that we all live by (No matter your religion or belief), but while there is no such thing as a new story (this is obvious in thatThe Hunger Games has been accused of cheating Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale, and even that accused of cheating Lord of the Flies), rather it’s how it’s told, Roth’s story is not the strongest way this story could have been told, and there for it’s success reflects this. I do look forward to Insurgent, I hope that they tweak Allegiant, and I can’t wait to see Mockingjay later this year.  Cheers!’

Divergent Discussion/Analysis: Introduction

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!

A Comment about Dystopia, based upon The Hunger Games and Divergent

So, this is probably the first of a series of posts about the dystopian genre, which is probably my favorite genre to write, and I feel the need to share it, and since Slate.com has decided that it would like to have problems, I’m just going to post the comment here. Anyhow, note that, as crazy as it is, this is based on what was said about Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy, which was that it was ‘gritty’, which it is not, and you will learn why I would say such a thing as you read the comment below! Hope that you can speak your own mind in the comment section below, and erm, yeah!

The comment:

‘Firstly, let it be known that I enjoy both Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth’s works, but I favor Suzanne Collins’s works more. I also know that this article is about Divergent, it’s simply one little part really ticked me off to write this little post, as a little thought to keep in mind as you read this.

Hold on, I have to say as a Dystopian-Horror writer myself, Divergent is far from ‘gritty’ or ‘grim’. Roth’s dystopian series is closer to a utopia than it is a dystopia; just because buildings are in shambles and there is a lifestyle that these people must live does not make it gritty nor grim. Collins’s Hunger Games is much closer to the vision of what dystopia is supposed to be than Roth’s. Collins’s world has much more meaningful, darker, and realistic undertones and ideas than Roth’s. Roth’s is purely a) experimental in that, the series is a good, quick read and beyond it’s surface idea, it has little to say and b) very action-ey, not that this is a bad thing, but it’s what a YA novel is on the most basic level, and Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent Series, proved this, and not because it was action-paced (because it wasn’t, most of it was mindless repetition of what the reader already knew and Roth trying to tie up the series which I don’t think she had a whole, big plan for in the first place as the revelation is a great big cop-out), but because it lacked the action of the first two novels, which ultimately contributed to the series’s success in the fist place.

Anyhow, Hunger Games really connects to many other meanings other than the brutal reality of reality television, but it emphasizes the class differences that are so predominant in our society that it drives us to have prejudice and hatred towards those from the lower class, it speaks out to the corruption of the government, it speaks out towards war–in Mockingjay, I believe it was (it wasn’t the most memorable final book for me, trilogies always end very offhanded in my opinion), Peeta says something about how war is pointless as at some point we’re just going to destroy the human race, and inevitably, there will be no human race at all–it speaks out towards a great wealth of other things, and what also contributed to making Collins’s story such a success was that before the final two books in the trilogy, really the great finale, romance was put on the back burner so that rebellion, war, and Katniss’s struggle could flourish and Collins could speak out against the things that are destroying our world.

Roth, on the other hand, is doing nothing more than following the generic formula of what made YA novels popular in the first place which is ‘I’m different’ theme of YA books, and we see how heavy handed this gets in the final book when the revelation that ‘Divergence’ is nothing more than a fluke. Roth, I understand, wants to speak about being yourself and that no one is one category, high school cliques and such things shouldn’t matter, but the story needs more backbone than that. What little backbone she could have added she did not emphasize. The only other thing that I think she did a very good job with was the idea of experimentation and serums, how in the future, we could likely be subject to an endless dependence on simulation and mind altering technology, of course such backbone that boils in the broth of it all, collapses under Roth’s un-plotted finale (I know that I keep making everything tie back to the finale, but in truth, even though I loved the books for what they were, the finale is the only one where the ideas and thoughts come to full fruition and in addition to this, it is the only one of the three books that gives us any legitimate answers for some of the things what happen, no matter how horribly derived or explained they may be) as she herself becomes far to dependent on this system of serums, which is sad because there was so much psychological war she could have touched down on in this final book, it would have really made the book much more bearable and acceptable as in truth, Allegiant has killed the series for me. But that is besides the point.

To talk about some other things, though, as many have mentioned: non-verbal communication has a great deal of importance in this series, and it is probably one of the redeeming aspects about it. This non-verbal communication plays with the subtle, and almost not there, psychological war between the characters. Four, in the first book, hid his emotions, but Roth works emotion into him by these little non-verbals and motions that Four does, in the second book, such non-verbal communication could mean the difference between life and death, and often times, words would only increase the tension; Roth also uses non-verbal communication in a way to often times describe the scene and give Tris time to relish in her thoughts and reflect, dialogue would weigh this crucial aspect of the series down by some great weight, as we would slog through deals of dialogue of arguments and thoughts that would stretch for pages when they could’ve been condensed into those little reflections. Non-verbal-ity is what Divergent is all about.

Finally, to head back into my main point, know the difference between dark, gritty, and grim. I may be more critical on what you call dark and grim because my work is highly dark and hopeless, simply because that is dystopia on a level, though another level suggests that dystopian fiction shows how making the world ‘good’ can make it worse than ever before while making it only better for those who decided that dystopian world was ‘better’; it is not about how the author describes the world on the outside, say a gray sky or broken buildings, but rather, it’s about the ideas that play subtly in the background of the stories. Collins plays with this idea far more than Roth, Collins shows what dystopia should be on a level, that dystopia is not about making the world look as shitty as you can possibly make it look, but rather, it’s about what caused it to be this way and how it’s getting worse. For The Capitol, in The Hunger Games, Panem is beautiful, for those who live in it, it is the ugliest place of all; in Divergent, though, what both strengthens the story and weakens is it is that these people have been brainwashed into thinking that this is society, society must be this way, this is how a normal human functions and they all see it as good, which plays upon the utopian aspect of it. While there is a lot of utopianism in Divergent, it still plays out into a dystopia, but know how that The Hunger Games, wears the dress better than Divergent. 

 This is all I have to say, I’m sorry this was a lot, and I’m sorry if some of the things that I say are highly biased or contradicting, but I’m writing this on the spot about what I believe and know about dystopia and how I feel about both series. Once again, I like both of these series, Hunger Games is simply the more well played of the two, and is the true down-dark-and-gritty future.


ALSO! Here is a link to the original post from Slate.com!