As with Vampire Academy and Beautiful Creatures, it’s the movie that sparked my interest in this book. I enjoyed watching the protagonist, Beatrice “Tris” Prior, develop from a shy, reserved girl into a confident, fearless young woman. I was drawn to the slow progression of her relationship with Four and, of course, I loved it when Four (played by actor Theo James) ripped his shirt off to show Tris his tattoo (…well, he didn’t exactly rip his shirt off but in my mind he did). Wanting to know how similar the novel is to the movie, I decided to purchase the book to find out.
Quick summary (spoilers):
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, where all that remains are structural skeletons of our present society. The city is surrounded by a huge, electric fence that’s guarded by a security patrol. Something beyond the city threatens it and citizens are warned not to venture far beyond its limits.
Within this barricade is a society organized into five factions—Dauntless, for the brave; Erudite, for the intelligent; Candor, for the honest; Amity, for the harmonious; and Abnegation, for the selfless. Tris’ family belongs to Abnegation but Tris yearns to break from the restrictions of her faction. She doesn’t feel as if she fits in. Instead, she is attracted to the Dauntless and often wishes to run free with them but her loyalty to her family leaves her ashamed of such thoughts.
Those thoughts follow her into her aptitude test, designed to determine what faction a person belongs to. Citizens are administered this test at age 16; however, they are also given the freedom to choose their faction, regardless of the test results, at a Choosing Ceremony. Once the faction is chosen, the faction becomes the person’s new family and community.
Since she is conflicted about which faction she should choose—should she satiate her parents’ desire and remain in Abnegation or should she follow her yearning to break free with Dauntless—Tris anticipates the test to help her decide. But the results are inconclusive. She is revealed as a Divergent—someone who fits more than one faction; someone who this society views as a threat to their order. Luckily, her test administrator is sympathetic and warns her to keep her results to herself. Now Tris’ fate is in her own hands.
At the Choosing Ceremony, Tris picks Dauntless. Though happy with her choice, she is sorry for hurting her parents. As a new recruit, she undergoes a grueling initiation process that’s supervised by a senior member called Four, an 18-year-old boy, and Eric, another senior member that seems to get off on terrorizing the initiates. Tris proves she is a natural Dauntless. She is tenacious and harnesses her fears so they don’t overwhelm her.
But fear looms on the horizon when the Erudites seize control of the government from Abnegation and issues a serum that turns Dauntless members into robotic killing machines. The serum doesn’t work on Divergents and those Divergents who are discovered are immediately killed. With the help of Four and her family, Tris fights to destroy the serum and relinquish the control of the Erudite on the government.
Divergent is an entertaining read. The plot progresses quickly and the protagonist is a strong female, which I like. Readers may find similarities to the Harry Potter novels, Hunger Games, and The Giver due to the use of factions to organize society and how the qualities of the factions determine the traits of its members. There is also the pressure to succeed at all costs that is prevalent in the Hunger Games and the illusion of choice, lack of freedom, and other restrictions placed on the society’s members, much like The Giver.
As with the majority of these YA novels, the protagonist deals with discovering who she is and finding her place in the world. And, as I mentioned above, she battles with choosing her own way in world. Overall, Divergent is a novel that many can identify with. Though the protagonist is not faultless, readers can relate to her plight and cheer her on as she fights to overcome her obstacles.
The overall identity of the factions made me think of the Harry Potter novels where the Hogwarts houses are used to help the readers quickly identify a character’s base personality. It’s also similar in how the action of one causes others to stereotype the group: The Erudite faction (like Slytherin) are considered evil because of their leader’s obsession with power. Because of their selflessness, the Abnegation faction is placed in control of the government but their strictures cause the Erudites to rebel. The Erudites, those who see ignorance as a sin and pursue knowledge to combat it, want an improved society.
There is nothing wrong with selflessness but the Abnegation faction seems to take it to another level by preventing their society from truly progressing…or so it seems to me while reading. I see no reason for the city to be so destitute…..though it’s mostly the Abnegations who volunteer to improve it. Maybe they don’t want to force anyone to do anything. Hmm…
Still, their restrictions cause Tris to seek the Dauntless, those fearless people who run headlong into danger. She believes that joining such a faction will give her the freedom she craves but when she is initiated, she realizes that they have restrictions of their own and their freedom might just be a facade. Like in The Giver, no one in this society is truly free. Even the “freedom” to choose one’s faction is rigged. If it is a matter of personal choice, then why must they also take a test? Why are they limited to just those factions and why are they penalized for not completing the initiation or fitting too many factions?
I think the ones who are truly free from the society’s control are the Divergents and the Factionless. The Divergents are executed when found because they can cause chaos. They see possibilities and can choose to break the rules. Meanwhile, the Factionless are discarded as the dregs of society to make their station unappealing. Tris fears to become one of the Factionless because they seem to lack community, thus lacking security. They do not have an identity. I guess that’s how they are kept in check. I wondered while reading why the Factionless aren’t threatened like the Divergents. Yes, the Divergents pose a greater risk to structure but if the Factionless unite, they can be a threat as well. But the lack of identity probably prevents them from massing together so instead they wander the streets as a warning to those who cannot fit the society’s mold.
I enjoyed the movie as much as the book though I could hardly stand to rewatch the entire thing after completing the novel. I just fast-forward to the part where Four rips his shirt off. I didn’t find the changes unnecessary but I’m biased towards the book and will always be somewhat upset with the changes in the movies. I did like that the movie’s producers pumped it up a bit and made the movie seem more futuristic than the book. Overall, I recommend renting the DVD then reading the novel.
- Divergent by Veronica Roth (purejonel.blogspot.com)
- Divergent: When I hopped onto the speeding bandwag-I-mean-train (etudesque.blogspot.com)