Everyday people make decisions based on core beliefs. Some value honesty and bravery, others the pursuit of knowledge, but rarely does a person base every single decision throughout their life on one sole value. Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” wields a world in which children are raised by only one virtue—the virtue their parents believe will lead to world harmony. The citizens live in one of five factions in a futuristic society, set where modern-day Chicago currently resides. Each faction values a different ideal: Abnegation, or selflessness; Amenity, peace; Candor, honesty; Dauntless, bravery; Erudite, knowledge. For example, a child raised in Candor would be taught to be brutally honest without regard for anything else, including the feelings of others. A child raised in Abnegation would be raised to be completely selfless, always putting others needs above her own.
At sixteen, Tris along with her brother and all of the other sixteen-year-olds in the small nation find themselves faced with a choice that will determine their futures. Though the teens grow up in the faction to which they are born, at sixteen each is offered the opportunity to remain in the faction they call home or transfer. In order to facilitate this process, the factions administer an aptitude test to each teen. The test consists of a simulation, which fabricates various ethical dilemmas. Each dilemma is designed to test the teens core beliefs, and the test ultimately offers each teen the faction in which they would best fit.
Tris, however, does not receive a result. Rather, the test reads inconclusive, and she receives the most dreaded of labels–divergent. Divergence is viewed as a threat to the entire faction system. The only hope for a divergent is to hide and remain undetected in whichever faction they choose.
After Tris chooses a faction, she discovers a vicious plot by an authoritarian leader of one faction to eliminate all divergents and take over the nation. Tris must fight for survival amidst increasingly turbulent times.
“Divergent” emphasizes choosing a way of life—choosing either to live as one was raised or break free of one’s upbringing. “I think the reason so many people have connected with it is because it’s something you can identify with,” Roth said in an interview with Summit Entertainment. At some point in everyone’s life, they must choose to stick to or break with their upbringing.
In a way, Roth constructs and explores her version of a utopia in “Divergent”—a land in which each member of society fits a niche of their choosing and lives amongst like-minded citizens. However, an inert fear of anyone not fitting into one of the five predetermined molds—a fear of divergence—permeates throughout the factions, ultimately transforming Roth’s perfect society into a dystopia.
Roth’s exploration of this dystopian society proves fascinating, especially for fans of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.” Both series explore a futuristic version of what is now the United States, and both feature deep divisions throughout the society whether it be via faction, district, ideals, or social status. However, Roth’s world proves much more egalitarian and much less cruel than Collins as Roth’s factions live symbiotically and offer citizens social mobility.
The film version of the novel, also titled “Divergent,” premiers March 21 in theaters.