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.

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 from 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 third novel will be divided into two adaptations, with the first part Allegiant slated for a 2016 release and the second part Ascendant for a 2017 release.

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.
  • Blatant Lies: Peter, who is from Candor, claims he is not murderous when being held at gunpoint by Tris in Divergent. He had previously claimed that he was only trying to scare her by throwing her down the chasm and molesting her.
  • 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.
  • City in a Bottle: The people of Chicago, having resided there for eight generations believe that Chicago is the last remaining bastion of humanity, and that what lies beyond the outer gates is desolate wasteland. Averted in Allegiant, when it's revealed that not only does Chicago is not the only bastion, the US government still exists, albeit as a Fallen States of America. Half of the US population is dead, but other peoples still exist in other cities, some of which were also formerly used for experiments to produce more GP population. In fact, Tris' mother, Natalie was a refugee from one of those cities: Milwaukee.
  • 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.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: It's very easy to tell who belongs to what faction based on their attire:
    • Candor typically dresses in black and white, reflecting their mindset.
    • Abnegation dresses in grey, rag-like clothing, reflecting their humility and putting others before themselves.
    • Amity dresses in bright colors, usually yellows and reds, reflecting their laid-back, free-spirited nature.
    • Dauntless members can usually be spotted sporting black combat uniforms.
    • Erudite dresses in blue formal attire befitting their intellectual nature.
    • As expected, the Factionless subvert this trope; they dress in whatever they can get their hands on, and it's exactly this lack of uniformity that makes them so easy to tell apart from those in a Faction.
  • Commonality Connection: In Allegiant, Christina and Uriah become very close because both of them lost someone important to them.
  • Crapsack World: A war caused by a disastrous attempt to correct human genes that went wrong claimed half of the US population and turned most of the environment into rough, uninhabitable wasteland. The entire human race is now sorted according to whether they are genetically pure or damaged, and being sorted into the latter is...not nice. This predictably resulted in violence that erupted in the metropolitan areas, which are practically the only places where people live. The United States is now a shadow of itself, agreeing to a plan by a certain Bureau which necessitated entire cities to be transformed into giant experimental bottles with the intention to produce more pure people. That goal is not noble by itself, but then the Bureau isolated them for eight generations and counting, which resulted in the people inside to forget why they live there and actually flipped the racism upside down, so that now the genetically pure (or as they call, Divergents) are persecuted, ensuring that the experiment will go on for a while.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The faction system is hyped up as the reason that the Chicago society can prosper in a world where everywhere else is practically uninhabitable wasteland and everyone considers it as the right thing to uphold. The first thing signifying that there is a major problem is the existence of the factionless, people who are not accepted in any faction and thus have to live as subhumans, yet everyone accepts it as natural, even the protagonist Tris. Then Tris receives the results of her Aptitude Test which shows that she does not fit in any faction because she is a Divergent, a status which will earn her certain death should the superiors find out about it. This "prosperous" world slowly goes downhill from that point, eventually ending up straight into the Crapsack World territory by the events of Allegiant.
  • 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.
  • Easily Forgiven: Tris's parents forgive her for going into the Dauntless regime, especially when her father has to go into hiding with the Abnegation.
  • 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: 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.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Tris in Divergent takes a while to forgive Christina and Will for not protecting her when Peter, Drew and Al kidnapped her, molested her, and tried to throw her down a chasm. By the time she does, she realizes that she can't trust anyone in the Divergent army except for Four.
  • 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.
  • Greater Scope Villain:
    • It's revealed that Jeanine Matthews, the Big Bad of the first two books, obtained the serums used for execution and mind controlling Dauntless members from the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, the mastermind behind the experiment in Chicago and several other metropolitan cities for more than eight generations.
    • It's also revealed that the experiment was done to produce genetically pure children from the genetically damaged, who were the subjects of an earlier experiment to "correct" human genes of their "imperfections". So, ultimately, whoever had the insane idea to do the "correction" in the first place is this.
  • 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 the last book which ends in 'giant', but is pronounced the same way.
  • "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 Need a Freaking Drink: In Divergent, Tris's fellow initiates pass around a silver flask with something strong right before Al's funeral. She refuses to partake in it.
  • 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.
  • Irony: Jeanine is convinced that Divergents threaten society. As it turns out, Divergents were the point of this particular society's creation in the first place.
  • 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.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The serum associated with the Abnegation can erase memories.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Peter in Divergent receives a whopping heapful of it. After spending most of the book bullying others, sabotaging or attempting to murder anyone who does better than him in the trials, he ends up injured courtesy of Tris, begging for his life and forced to assist in undoing the brainwashing simulation knowing that everyone can see him for what he really is.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The Dauntless army in Divergent when Tobias breaks the brainwashing on them, stopping them in the middle of an Abnegation massacre. To say that are angry, horrified, and traumatized is an understatement, and they quickly turn on each other.
  • 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.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Tris reacts this way in Divergent after Al commits suicide as a result of her refusing to forgive him, though she eventually learns to live with the fact that she's not a forgiving person, and no one blames her given Al assisted in an attempt on her life and molestation.
    • The Dauntless army as a whole reacts this way along with Mass "Oh, Crap!" when Tobias ends the simulation brainwashing them as a mindless army, forcing them to remember the senseless murder they've just committed.
  • 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: Three times throughout the series, from the perspective of Tris:
    • In Divergent, she learns that the world does not function in the same selfless and slow way like that of her Abnegation home when she decides on Choosing Day to transfer to Dauntless, which is anything but slow.
    • In Insurgent, she learns about how the other factions other than Abnegation and Dauntless function when she is forced to go on the run and has to take refuge in Amity and Candor, and then finally takes a step in the insurgency against Erudite.
    • Finally, in Allegiant, she learns that Chicago is not the entire world; there's much, much more beyond that. She also learns why the mindset of the Chicago population is engineered to think that they are isolated from the outside world: they're being used in an experimental project sanctioned by the US government.
  • Parting Words Regret: The last thing that Tris says to Al is that if he comes near her again, she'll kill him. He commits suicide the evening after, and Tris wonders if she was too hard on him.
  • 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.
  • Tears of Remorse: In Divergent, after Al almost kills Tris, she next sees him bawling his eyes out with regret.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Will, Christina and Tris treat Al this way after he assists Peter and Drew in attempting to kill Tris. They become more ambivalent after Al kills himself but never speak of it again.
  • 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 (Allegiant is coming out in 2016, and the final entry - called Ascendant - in 2017), 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?:
    • Divergent:
      • Subverted when Al commits suicide following Tris's Rejected Apology. Four doesn't call Tris out for that, since her anger is reasonable given the circumstances, though he does ask if her anger at Al is useful after his death but for sticking out like a sore thumb and risking trouble.
      • 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.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The films actually cut out a chunk of information from the novels to focus more on others.
    • Tris' friendship with other Dauntless members not named Christina, Will, and Al are sacrificed so the films could focus more on her budding romance with Four. It is also why when Uriah meets Tris in the Candor headquarters in The Divergent Series: Insurgent, he has to introduce himself first (in the novels he is one of her best friends since the first book).
    • The insurgency against Erudite at the end of Insurgent had the entire Dauntless faction (plus a few from other factions) actually collaborate in the plot, whilst in The Divergent Series: Insurgent this is simplified so that only Tris, Four, Caleb, Peter, and Jeanine figure much.
  • Adapted Out: Many of Tris' friends and fellow initiates from the books do not make it in to the films so that more focus could be put on her romance with Four. This includes Uriah, Lynn, Marlene, Lynn's sister Shauna, Uriah's brother Zeke, and Will's sister Cara. The Divergent Series: Insurgent features them in a much more reduced role, with Lynn only coming up just once to remind the others that the recently deceased Marlene did have a name.

    The exclusion of Cara is particularly significant, since in Allegiant, she is one of the leaders of the titular Allegiant, participates together with Tris' group to get to the fringes of Chicago, and also gets the task of informing Four at the end about Tris' death.
  • And Starring:
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: In Insurgent, Tori, one of Tris' friends, kills Jeanine near the end of the novel to avenge her brother. In its film adaptation, it's instead Evelyn who does the job, likely to foreshadow the fact that she is much crueler than she appears to be.
  • Foreshadowing: In the early scenes of The Divergent Series: Insurgent, Tris is told that to be a member of Amity means forgiving others and yourself. At the end of the film, she passes the Amity simulation by declaring that even if no one else forgives her for what she's done, she will forgive herself.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Allegiant, Insurgent