Literature: Divergent

"One choice can transform you."
"One choice can destroy you."
"One choice will define you."

Divergent is a Young Adult dystopian thriller trilogy (2011-2013) written by Veronica Roth, who was a mere 23 years old at the time of the first book's release.

In a dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a different personality trait:

  • Candor values honesty, plain-speaking, and impartiality. Members are extremely social, tactless and see everything in black and white terms. They wear black and white. Most of the Candors work in law and civil administration.
  • Abnegation values selflessness and self-effacement. Members are sombre, reserved, trained to place themselves at the services of others at every possible opportunity, and bear any abuse from others with good grace. They wear gray. The leaders of the city are chosen exclusively from within Abnegation as they are widely considered to be incorruptible.
  • Dauntless values courage and fearlessness. Members are trained in combat and to suppress fear. They wear black. Most Dauntless work as police or as soldiers protecting the city walls.
  • Amity values peace and cooperation. Members are much more laid-back than the other factions. They wear bright colors, normally yellow and red. Most Amitys work in farming, and they use a notably different political structure than the rest of the city, as well as being located largely outside the walls.
  • Erudite values intelligence and knowledge. Members are rigorously educated in science and elocution, and the faction's emphasis on reading is almost fetishistic. They wear blue. Most Erudites work in science and to maintain the city's technological infrastructure.

Every year, sixteen-year olds must select a faction to be a member of for the rest of their life, lest they become factionless.

Beatrice grew up in Abnegation, unable to think of herself. But when she takes an aptitude test to decide what faction she fits in the most, her result is that she is a Divergent, qualifying for more than one faction. Therefore, she rejects her heritage and joins Dauntless, renaming herself Tris. As she takes the highly competitive initiation test, the conflict that threatens to rip apart the society gradually unravels before her.

The second book in the trilogy, Insurgent, was released on May 1, 2012. The third and final installment, Allegiant was released October 22, 2013.

There are also a series of four ebooks that show Four's story from his point of view: The Transfer (Sept 3, 2013), The Initiate (Dec 17, 2013), The Son (Jan 21, 2014), and The Traitor (Feb 11, 2014).

The movie adaptation of the first book was released on March 21, 2014. It stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Zoe Kravitz, Ashley Judd, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer and Maggie Q.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent, the movie adaptation of the second book was released on March 20, 2015.

The Books:

  • Absurdly Youthful Parents: Seems to be pretty heavily implied as the norm in Allegiant, given that Natalie and Andrew were together before they entered Abnegation together, and that the Bureau requires that all persons entering the experiment promise to have a minimum number of children to ensure the survival of their "corrected genes".
  • After the End: The series is implied to be after a major war. Subverted with Allegiant where its revealed that while there was a war, society is still somewhat intact with the US Government still existing but as a shadow of its former self. Though half the US population is dead, many of the Metro areas are filled with crime and fantastic racism. It's also revealed that Chicago is a closed off experiment, one of a few in the Midwest. Itís also implied that the west coast is either uninhabited or possibly isolated. (Itís not clear as the fringe groups don't go there because the terrain is too rough to traverse).
  • Badass Creed: The Dauntless manifesto from the extra materials.
    We believe that peace is hard-won,
    that sometimes it is necessary to fight for peace.
    But more than that:
    We believe that justice is more important than peace.
    We believe in freedom from fear, in denying fear the power to influence our decisions.
    We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.
    We believe in acknowledging fear and the extent to which it rules us.
    We believe in facing that fear no matter what the cost to our comfort, our happiness, or even our sanity.
    We believe in shouting for those who can only whisper, in defending those who cannot defend themselves.
    We believe, not just in bold words but in bold deeds to match them.
    We believe that pain and death are better than cowardice and inaction because
    We believe in action.
    We do not believe in living comfortable lives.
    We do not believe that silence is useful.
    We do not believe in good manners.
    We do not believe in empty heads, empty mouths, or empty hands.
    We do not believe that learning to master violence encourages unnecessary violence.
    We do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by.
    We do not believe that any other virtue is more important than bravery.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • In Divergent, Tris's mother shows up to save her from being executed.
    • In Insurgent, Tobias leads a counter attack just as Tris is rebelling against her captors.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • In Divergent, Tris manages to stop the mind control device and rescues her boyfriend. Unfortunately, many members of Abnegation and Dauntless have been needlessly killed, both of Tris's parents (as well as Will) are dead, she has little chance of befriending Christina again, and Jeanine is still out there.
    • And Insurgent, Tris and Tobias have reconciled and they got the information, but Evelyn has staged her coup and Tris, Cara and Christine are seen as traitors.
    • And then we have Allegiant: Tobias negotiates a peaceful resolution between Evelyn and the Allegiant, Chicago rebuilds, and the Bureau are all mindwiped to no longer distinguish between GP and GDs, but Tris dies.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Inverted. Allegiant reveals that the Chicago walled community was an experiment to restore humanity back to normal after years of selective breeding caused what they considered to be "damaged genes" in humans, making them prone to certain vices and violence.
  • Bury Your Gays:
    • In Insurgent, Lynn comes out of the closet after being fatally wounded.
  • Cataclysm Backstory: Of the "no one knows" variety, something has caused Chicago to isolate itself from the rest of the world, turning the society into the five virtue-based factions in the story.
  • Cliffhanger: Insurgent ends with an epic one, with the revelation that Chicago was walled off as part of an experiment to restore humanity to a war-torn world, and that once there are enough Divergent people among them then they should open the gates and reenter the wider world.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Tris quickly learns that people are more willing to share information after they've been shot.
  • Commonality Connection: In Allegiant, Christina and Uriah become very close because both of them lost someone important to them.
  • Creepy Crows: As Tris goes into a simulation designed to emulate her fears she is attacked by a large number of crows. These turn out to be representative of something else as Four points out that she isn't really afraid of crows.
  • Disapproving Look: Beatrice mentions her brother has one that she's memorized.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Peter does whatever he can to get rid of potential rivals in the initiate ranking, from stabbing Edward in the eye to trying to throw Tris into the chasm.
    • Also Molly, who feeds lies about Tris's father to Erudite because Tris beat her in a fight and ranked higher than her.
  • Dystopia: The city of Chicago has split into five factions based on the virtue they believe needs to held up to stop society falling into ruin again. Everyone who turns sixteen must take a test to see which faction they best fit into, and those who fail the initiation or refuse to join become homeless. Anyone who is considered Divergent is hunted down for threatening the system.
  • The Evils of Free Will:
    • In this dystopia, teens are forced to take an aptitude test that matches them with a "faction": Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, or Erudite. The faction they choose, however, is where they end up for the rest of their lives. If they choose no faction, then they become factionless and are forced to be homeless. Also, if their test results do not match with any particular faction, then they are seen as Divergent, meaning they donít necessarily conform to the thought patterns of their respective factions and therefore can't be trusted.
    • There are shades of this in Abnegation. Basically, any part of free will that serves the self is prohibited.
  • Eye Scream: Edward is on the receiving end of one via a butter knife because he ended up first on the initiate ranking. Peter does not like being in second place.
  • False Utopia: Meta-Example, Veronica Roth has stated that she only realized after she had started writing that Divergent was her own personal utopia, and then later realized that her "utopia" was a horrible place to live.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Invoked and lampshaded. When war breaks out, the Amity sector is not given real guns, but stun guns that can just take people down.
  • Famous Last Words
    • "Be brave, Beatrice. I love you." Natalie Prior
    • "Thank you. For protecting Caleb. Beatrice, I-" Andrew Prior
    • "Release me. Or I will order my guards to fire." Max
    • "What, afraid the Dauntless are going to change their minds about you? Realize that even though you've only got four fears, youíre still a coward?" Eric
    • "Thatís right! It is on that computer, Beatrice, and only I can locate it. If you donít help me survive this, it will die with me." Jeanine Matthews
    • "I didn't come here to steal anything, David." Beatrice "Tris" Prior
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Becoming factionless, who live in poverty and are ostracized, is considered this by most of the characters. Subverted in Insurgent, when Tris gets to interact with them.
  • Foil:
    • Eric and Four. The former preaches all-out combat with no mercy rules, while the latter preaches fair fights with protective rules.
  • Follow the Leader: Follows the success of The Hunger Games, being a Young Adult Dystopia novel with a female lead and an emphasis on romance. Also holds to a similar structure structure: 16-year old Action Girl protagonist, present-tense first-person narration, love interest (though a surprising lack of a love triangle), and angst. The novels also have covers featuring circular emblems reminiscent of the Mockingjay pin.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: In Insurgent, we learn that one of the reasons members of the Amity faction stay so calm and happy is regular doses of a calming drug. After getting into a fight with Peter in Amity, Tris is given the drug, but because of her slight build, it has a stronger effect, temporarily blissing her out. Also, the entire Amity compound's food supply (specifically the bread) is infused with small amounts of it.
  • Heroic BSOD: In Allegiant, after Tobias finds out that Tris is dead, all he can do is stand still and say nothing.
  • Hidden Purpose Test: The aptitude test. Tris mentions that students don't even know what the test entails, and Tori informs Tris that she cannot tell her what's going to happen during it.
  • Hope Spot: In Allegiant, just when it looks like Tris is going to shrug off the death serum and survive, David fatally shoots her. She still manages to get her Heroic Sacrifice off, though.
  • Hufflepuff House:
    • From all of the factions, Amity gets the least mentioned in Divergent. None of the transfer to Dauntless are from it (one tried, but chickened out of the initiation almost immediately), and only one named character is a member of it. They have a slightly more important role in Insurgent.
    • Candor also has a minor role in Divergent, although they also get elevated in Insurgent.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The names of the first two books end in 'gent'. Subverted by Allegiant.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Said word-for-word in Divergent when Tris confronts Tobias while he's under the effects of a mind-controlling serum.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die:
    • After Tris shoots a brainwashed Will to defend herself in Divergent, she angsts about his death for the rest of the series after it happens, and never fully forgives herself.
    • Uriah slips into a coma, brain damaged beyond hope after being caught in the rebellion attack in Allegiant. Four blames himself, since he participated in the attack, and like Tris with Will he never really lets go of his guilt.
  • I Owe You My Life: Why Peter saves Tris' life in Insurgent. He claims to only think in term of debts, and couldn't conceive of doing anything for someone unless it was to get them to owe you a favour.
  • Jerk Ass:
    • Peter. He goes out of his way to make Tris's life miserable, from throwing petty insults to outright sexually assaulting her and trying to kill her.
    • Molly. To get back at Tris for wounding her pride, she feeds lies to the Erudite about Tris's father and Abnegation.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    Can I be forgiven for all I've done to get here?
    I don't know. I don't know.
    Please.
    Can I be forgiven for all I've done to get here?
    I want to be.
    I can.
    I believe it.
  • Meaningful Rename: This is significant as characters changed their names to abandon their old faction identity:
    • The main character Beatrice becomes known as Tris instead of Beatrice. While this is a nickname, it's meaningful because it is significant in the character adopting a Dauntless rather than Abnegation identity.
    • Four decided to call himself Four because he only has four fears in the fear landscape. His original name was Tobias, but as he was abused by his father that's also one reason he wanted to abandon that identity.
  • Military Coup: In Insurgent, Evelyn ensures that the Factionless are armed and leads an insurrection, becoming the de facto new leader of the Chicago walled community.
  • Mind-Control Device: The "tracking" chips placed in every Dauntless member controls them and ultimately leads to the Dauntless members, aside from Divergents, being controlled into attacking Abnegation.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Tris and Four - Beatrice and Tobias are their real names, respectively.
    • Nita from Allegiant. Her full name is Juanita.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: In Divergent it is implied that the Abnegation faction (a faction of society that lives much like the Amish) is the only section of society that still believes in God. However, Insurgent shows that the Amity Faction practices some sort of naturalistic religion.
  • The Outside World: Tris finds the world beyond Abnegation to be completely different from her previous life of selflessness. Further and farther, the Outside world of Chicago offers a crumbling cityscape.
  • The Power of Love: In Divergent, Tobias, under Jeanine's mind-control, becomes horribly close to shooting Tris, but the sound of Tris's voice makes him snap out of it.
  • Pretend to Be Brainwashed: Comes up in Divergent, where the Dauntless faction is mind-controlled into attacking Abnegation. The Divergent are resistant to this; Tris and Four blend in while another Divergent, not knowing what is going on, is shot dead.
  • Truth Serums: The serum associated with the Candor faction is, of course, truth serum, used for trials, interrogations, and Candor initiation.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: A lot of readers feel the trilogy is one of these; the difference being that it's the third book, Allegiant, that seems to feel out of sync with the other two, to its discredit ó alternating between two narrators where the first two books were told entirely in Tris's voice, (Tobias actually concludes the narrative after Tris' death) sacrificing the narrative energy of the first two books for a lot of exposition which shouldn't really be necessary at that point. A piece in Buzzfeed when the first movie adaptation came out called it "listless, anti-climactic, and you really get the sense that Roth didn't know where she was going with the story," noting that the four top-rated reviews of the book on Amazon share this assessment. It's been suggested that Roth's publisher got her to lengthen the first book into enough for two; the producers of the films have announced they're splitting Allegiant into two, suggesting they see the same problem.
  • Urban Segregation: Chicago is split up in five factions and five corresponding living areas - with the slums left for the Factionless.
  • Vigilante Execution: In Insurgent, the Candor Court decided to spare Ericís life, but Dauntless decides, on its own, to kill him for his crimes, and the execution is performed by them. So technically, may count as a subversion, since Eric was a Dauntless.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • In Divergent, Tris's dad calls her out for shooting Peter in the arm. Though she points out that, despite being Dauntless, he is cowardly and borderline psychopathic and lives depended on it. She knows he will give in quickly once he is in pain.
    • In Insurgent, Tobias calls out Tris multiple times of being suicidal. In return, Tris calls out Tobias for being a hypocrite. He tells her that she's strong enough to take her scolding, but still tries to "protect" her. He insists she be open and honest with him, while still insisting on the right to keep his own secrets. He says he trusts her perceptiveness, but refuses to listen to her warnings about people repeatedly. Thankfully, the both of them get better. Eventually.
  • Worthy Opponent: In Insurgent, Tris might be the enemy, but the Dauntless will still honor her for walking to her execution.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: When Tris loses control and beats Molly bloody during their fight during testing, Eric congratulates her. She decides that she doesn't want to be congratulated for something like that by someone like him.

The Films:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • In the novel Tris is described as average looking, with a long nose. In the movie she is played by the gorgeous Shailene Woodley.
    • In the book, Eric is described as having a frightening and repugnant appearance. In the film, he certainly still has an intimidating presence, but is actually pretty good looking.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Follow the Leader: The film is one of the many film adaptations of Young Adult books with dystopian settings, spawned from the success of The Hunger Games.
  • Ironic Echo: The film has Jeanine explain to Tris why Divergents must be eliminated. During this explanation, she says "I must admit, there is a certain beauty to your resistance." After using Jeanine's own brainwashing drug to force Jeanine to shut down her scheme, Tris returns the line to her.