Divergent is set after a war in the ruins of Chicago city. Society has adapted under a faction system where every individual is categorized into one of the following 5 groups: Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), and Dauntless (the brave). At the age of 16, one will go through a personality test to determine which category they are must suited to be in. At the choosing ceremony, the individual will still have the choice to choose whichever one of the category they will live under. However, the choice is irreversible and if conformity is not reached, then the individual will become “faction-less” (they are homeless and cut off from previous family members and other factions).
Beatrice Prior (later renamed as just “Tris”) grows up in Abnegation. However, her test results label her as “Divergent”, someone who does not conform or fit into any of the categories. She is ordered to keep her test results a secret and at the choosing ceremony, she chooses Dauntless. Her new faction offers her a taste of freedom and wildness as Tris struggles to keep up with the harsh training condemned onto all new members. All the while, her very existence as a Divergent threatens the entire faction system.
There are a lot of comparisons between Divergent and The Hunger Games. This cannot be helped since both stories revolve around the setting of a dystopia and a female lead of resistance. I actually have not read the book series, so I will try to focus solely on the movie adaptation of Divergent (2014) and not compare it to Hunger Games as much as I can.
The movie wasn’t bad. Some of the scenes were impressive; my favorite scene is when Tris participates in the city zip-lining initiation. It was very beautiful the way the film portrayed her as a bird flying against her reflection on the city walls. It was especially memorable compared to the previous scenes of her reflections in the life of Abnegation. She used to only be able to look at herself in the mirror for a few minutes or in her dull spoon at dinner. For me, that scene symbolized a moment of self-actualization and fulfillment. She was able to look at herself and like what she saw.
However, I was still expecting a little more from Divergent. Perhaps it’s because this is only the first part, but I felt like it was missing a lot of layers that the movie could have actually included. Something that I note positively is that the movie did spark my interest in the story. Similar to Attack on Titans, I am very interested to find out what lies beyond the walls and the history of the war. My wishful thinking also hopes for some background story on Tris’s parents (like the love story of Harry Potter’s parents!) to tie up loose ends, but I doubt that will happen.
The concept of the faction system is also something that has been interesting to think about. It is weird because I actually kind of liked the scenes of the faction society. I blame my strange obsession for color-coordinated organization.
Each group is designated a color (for example, Abnegation is grey) and members of the faction only dress in that color. It was easy on the eyes to see groups of blue or white strolling through the city and when they were all seated by color at the choosing ceremony, I felt very satisfied.
It is interesting how they are able to make people go into one single group that defines their self. My favorite quote in the movie is:
I don’t want to be just one thing. I can’t be. I want to be brave, and I want to be selfless, intelligent, and honest and kind.
I believe that a person has many different sides. The same person can have a different “self” depending on if they are at work or at home, with friends or by him or herself. I do not believe it is possible to contain the entire complexity of a human person into a single label. There is no one who is just “smart” and nothing else. In my opinion, the faction system would never have worked after implementation without the use of coercive power. If Erudites are supposed to be the intelligent ones and want to improve the efficiency of the government and society, how can they believe in limiting human capital to one single attribute?
But on a related note, the faction system does not seem as unrealistic as my logic deems it to be. The faction system is not much different from the high school stereotype system, or any other similar classification of individuals. The very structure of education and university faculties and departments can be said to sub-group students (in our case, perhaps Erudites). The fashion system is also closely similar. Even though it is not extreme to the point where everything is the same color, it is easy to conform into a single style and outwardly reject dissimilar styles.
The faction-less is also interesting because they are supposed to be the ones who don’t belong anymore. The faction-less is different from Divergent, where an individual is supposed to embody attributes from all the factions and therefore cannot be confined into a single category. The faction-less is composed of individuals who are ostracized and banished by their original faction. For example, maybe an individual made a “wrong” choice at the choosing ceremony and chose a faction that did not “fit” their personality. Someone who despises reading is most likely not fit to be an Erudite. And if they do not begin to love reading, then they are out.
Although the faction-less are supposed to be the outliers of the faction system, the category of a faction-less complies with the system in place. Essentially, the faction-less is a faction represented with the shared attribute of, perhaps, “the confused”.
Why do we settle for being just one thing when we can be many more things? And why is it so hard to accept that someone can be intelligent and kind and all the other qualities that should be promoted instead of demoted? And why do we need to know exactly what kind of a person we are at 16, anyways?
You have your whole life to figure it out.