In Divergent, your choice of faction defines you more than anything else does. Tris was faced with two options: remain with her family in the faction in which she grew up, Abnegation, or transfer to another faction and start anew. Though her aptitude test is inconclusive - she could be a match to Abnegation, Erudite, or Dauntless - she chooses Dauntless because she feels it will allow her to discover her true self. But even this does not truly fit, and Tris spends the entire novel struggling to come to terms with the fact that because of her Divergence, none of the factions will ever truly define her the way they do for others. She develops her identity through her relationships with her friends and family and the difficult choices she is forced to make time and time again when faced with the struggles of both initiation and the impending war in her society. Divergent places huge importance on coming to terms with your identity, and in the end, Tris has to accept that she will never fit perfectly anywhere; she simply has to form her own path through her own choices, one step at a time.
The idea of fear and the process of overcoming it was central to Veronica Roth's motivation behind Divergent. Dauntless members' staple characteristic is courage, so the Dauntless initiates spend a lot of time confronting their fears in fear landscapes, working to move past them and refusing to be tormented by them any longer. But a lot of times during the initiation and beyond, our characters are forced to question what, exactly, constitutes bravery. Is it merely being stronger than someone? Is it an absence of fear entirely, or is it the power to overcome fear each time it threatens to consume you? Tris and her companions fight their fears over and over throughout the course of the novel, and through them, we see both what happens when these attempts are successful, and what happens when you succumb.
As previously stated, the entire lives of the citizens in Divergent are determined by what faction they are in. The only freedom they are granted is the ability to choose their faction; but even then, their decisions are heavily influenced by the faction they grew up in. There is little social mobility; a person's life follows one of the predetermined roles in their respective faction. Amity are farmers and counselors, Erudite teachers, Abnegation run the government, Candor handle the law, and Dauntless are in charge of the city's security. Your leisure activities of choice correspond to those promoted by your faction, and you are meant to marry within the faction as well. Should you prove to not fit in the faction of your choice, you become factionless, below the faction members in status in every way, forced to live out in the dangerous recesses of the city. Much of the discourse in the novel comes from citizens dissatisfied by the way they are so rigidly placed into a caste, fighting to have more freedom than they have been given. But what will happen if they are successful? What would come next? Divergent illustrates the prevalent truth that when people are placed into immutable classes in such a way, there will always be those who are not content.
Secrets and Lies
The most notable secret Tris keeps is her Divergence; because of the way the Divergent are being persecuted in her society, it would be disastrous to reveal to the world the results of her aptitude test. Only a select few people know of this secret, yet it still threatens to destroy her. Other characters are constantly keeping life-altering secrets as well: Four hides his true identity, Tris's mother lies about her birth faction, Caleb disguises his love for reading and books for sixteen years of his life. The secrets continue to build up, and with them follow lies. Tris constantly lies not only to those she considers enemies, but to some of her closest friends - but are these lies worth it? Divergent illustrates the consequences of being caught up in a web of secrets and lies. What circumstances make these lies forgivable, and on the other hand, what lies are indefensible?
In this novel, society is organized into factions based solely on five virtues: intelligence, honesty, peacefulness, selflessness, and bravery. Each faction works intensively to cultivate only its respective trait, ignoring all others. Often this leads to friction - Candor loathes Amity for how frequently they lie to keep the peace, and Abnegation turn up their noses at Erudite, believing that intelligence can yield greed. Through the discourse that begins and continues through the end of the novel, this system is intended to show the importance of all five of these values; by acknowledging just one and disparaging the others, citizens are in many way worse off than they would've been if not sorted into these factions at all. Also, the popular saying "faction before blood" emphasizes the warped sense of allegiance at the heart of the faction system.
The lust for power and its damaging effects is personified by Jeanine Matthews. As the leader of Erudite, she attempts to control the Dauntless and destroy Abnegation, willfully lying to the populace in the process. Power makes her cruel and ruthless. The theme of power also appears in much subtler, stronger ways in the novel. The struggle between the Dauntless initiates to reach the top of the rankings brings out the worst in many of them. Peter and his cronies tease and abuse Tris even though she is physically weaker than them. Peter stabs Edward in the eye in order to rise to the top. The tension over the rankings even drives gentle Al to violence and eventual suicide. In this novel, the most powerful person is the one who has the most control over everyone else; many of the characters try to achieve this in different ways. But Veronica Roth makes sure that readers know how dangerous power can be: it can drive good people to do terrible things. As Mr. Prior warns Tris, a lust for power can lead men into dark and dangerous places.
The mantra "faction before blood" is drilled into the heads of all faction children as they approach their Choosing Day, and throughout the rest of their lives after that. Citizens are meant to stay loyal to their respective faction above all else, even above their family, but Tris constantly finds the ties to her family in Abnegation pulling at her during her Dauntless initiation. In Tris's world, sixteen-year-olds have to choose between family and identity, a decision that is extremely rare in our own world. But even though she remains loyal to Dauntless throughout the novel, Roth still emphasizes the importance of familial love through Natalie Prior's sacrifice. Despite their different factions, she still dies for her daughter, and there could be no greater show of love than that.
Divergent Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Divergent is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
I twist my head around to find Caleb in the crowd of Erudite behind me. He stands among the other initiates, shaking hands with a faction transfer, a boy who was Candor. The easy smile he wears is an act of betrayal. My stomach...