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January 11, 2014 / ljbradburn-Smith

Divergent

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Divergent by Veronica Roth, published in 2011, came out at a time when teen/young adult literature, more than ever, appeared to be rife with dystopian reflections of broken societies. I appreciate all things dystopian and have since I started to gain more of an understanding of the world and the real monsters that lurk under our beds. I feel the chill of probable futures and the weight of the inevitable last straw that will bring the system splintering down around us. Reading about dystopian worlds only makes me more sure of the corruption that exists in so many facets of life and makes me wonder if I will ever have the strength to fight for what I believe in. I hope that one day I will.

Divergent is fresh and innovative, if not in underlying theme, in presentation and characterization. Beatrice’s society is split into factions, each with their own specific ideas about what causes conflict and war. Amity believe in peace and promoting kindness, Abnegation believe in being selfless, Dauntless in being brave above all else, Erudite in the pursuit of knowledge and Candor in respecting the truth at all times. The one belief which they have in common is that their faction promotes the correct values by which all people should live.

In an apparent bid to create pure factions, full of people who believe wholeheartedly in their cause, and working under the illusion of choice, at sixteen all faction members undergo an aptitude simulation. This tests their reactions to hypothetical choices against the values and personality traits of the different factions to see where they best fit in. After this point it is up to each individual to  decide if they will stay in the faction they have been brought up in or go against their families and choose their own way.

Sixteen year old Beatrice has spent her whole life feeling that she doesn’t quite fit into Abnegation, the faction she has been raised in, she just doesn’t quite feel selfless enough, but her decision to break free has effects far outreaching anything she could have imagined and she soon learns about the many shades in between black and white that make up people and their characters.

The thing I enjoyed above all, in this novel, was Roth’s characterization of her protagonists, in particular Beatrice and Four. She captures the different elements of these characters very well, building depth (with ogre-like onion layers) whilst still maintaining an air of unpredictability and mystery. I found Four in particular to be intriguing, his moody (and let’s face it a little bit sexy) side somehow made his loving side appear all the more sincere and pure. It was clear that he was supposed to be a complex character and I found myself as keen as Beatrice to find out more about what made him tick. Roth has also created an interesting female character, in Beatrice, who is the perfect example of the many different elements of a person’s character. She really gets across her point about the diversity of human personalities and the impossibility of being just one thing, or perhaps more importantly of defining a human characteristic in only one way. Roth forces both Beatrice and the reader to really think about what it means to be human and fearful and brave all at once .

Another interesting plot choice, is that initially there does not appear to be one clear ruling influence. A ‘Society’ or ‘Capitol’  are never alluded to as they often are in other dystopian novels. In a lot of ways I felt that this made the control all the more sinister. If there is nothing concrete to rebel against then the manipulation and secrecy must run deep. As the story twists and turns though, the faces behind the voice start to become a bit clearer. These gradual revelations made the unfolding of the story feel more natural and immediate, as though the reader was walking alongside Beatrice through the novel.

In a daunting reflection of society now, we see the characters in Divergent obsessed with being who they are told they should be and not who they want to be. Determination to fit in and fear of rejection and difference are as always the thing that is used to control and manipulate people.

Well worth a read, I really enjoyed Divergent and found Roth to be a skillful and imaginative writer. Her voice is clear, her message powerful and her characters diverse.

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