Divergent (2014); Faction Before Blood

“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.”Four

Divergent (2014), directed by Neil Burger, takes place in a futuristic post-war Chicago, where a totalitarian society is separated into five factions, or groups where people share a primary characteristic. Erudite are the ones who value knowledge and logic; Amity farm the land and are always happy and harmonious; Candor are truthful and value honesty; Dauntless are the brave and fearless protectors, and police, of the city; and Abnegation, or Stiffs, are selfless, simple public servants who are trusted to run the government.

Beatrice Prior was born into Abnegation, along with her brother Caleb. They both undergo the obligatory aptitude test, which determines which faction they are best suited for. Although teens usually receive the result of the faction they are born into about ninety-five percent of the time, Beatrice’s results are inconclusive. Knowing she has a hint of Dauntless inside of her, she makes the bold move to choose Dauntless as her new faction during the Choosing Ceremony.

Training starts immediately and she must learn to be both physically and mentally fit to earn her stay within Dauntless. Now known as Tris, she steadily climbs the performance chart with her determination and dexterity. Meanwhile, she must protect her secret of being Divergent, or someone with multiple attributes of several factions. Divergents can think independently and creatively, and the government cannot control their thinking. Therefore, they are considered dangerous threats and are aggressively hunted down by Erudite, who are trying to gain control as the ruling faction.

Once society turns chaotic with the Erudite takeover, it’s up to Tris and others (who realize the system is flawed) to stop them.

Society reminds people of the terrible war of the past, in which the rest of the world was destroyed. The founders built a wall around the city to keep its people safe and divided everyone into five factions to sustain peace: Erudite (intellect), Amity (peaceful), Candor (truthful), Dauntless (brave), and Abnegation (selfless). This system was put into practice to prevent future conflicts. If anyone is Divergent, or conveys traits from all five factions, he/she is unable to be conformed or controlled by the ruling party—and therefore, are considered a threat to the “peaceful” system. Another group that does not belong to the five factions is Factionless—people who do not belong to any faction. Both Divergent and Factionless pose complications for this society’s effort at utopia.

Since Abnegation is selfless, they are entrusted with the power to rule and govern society. Erudite aggressively work behind the scenes to gain control of society and eliminate Abnegation, because they believe that intellects deserve the power to rule. This brings up the question: should a society be ruled by smart people, or selfless people?

Jeanine, the fascist leader of the Erudites, believes that intellect deserves to hold power. She believes that human nature is a sign of weakness. It is natural for people to “keep secrets, lie, steal” and she wants to eradicate this enemy to peace. She praises the faction system because the sense of conformity “removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will.” In order to carry out her personal scheme, she has Dauntless injected with a controlling serum—they become mindless soldiers and exhibit no self-control. With chemistry, she is able to wipe out their history, emotions, and thoughts. She uses this army to round up and eliminate the Abnegation faction, whom she believes is a threat to the faction system.

There are strong parallels in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. This dystopian society is surrounded by a Green Wall, which separates its people from outside nature. It is set in the future after a great, painful war that has destroyed the rest of the world.

Similar to the idea of a serum used to control Dauntless, in D-503’s last journal entry, he shares his encounter with the “Great Operation”—a procedure that is mandated for all citizens in order to prevent acts of rebellion. This operation aims to remove imagination and emotions from its people, and turn them into mindless and controllable soldiers. This idea of a soldier—someone who carries out given orders—emphasizes the absence of individuality and freedom.

In Divergent, each teenager is given an aptitude test which, based on one’s personality, indicates a suitable faction. Each individual, however, has the free will to choose his/her permanent faction, regardless of the results. Yet, if any teenagers choose a faction that differs from their parents, they are unable to see/visit their parents.

By allowing individuals to choose their factions, these young individuals either succeed in earning their place by upholding or developing the main characteristic of their unit, or fail to belong and consequently become Factionless. Since some do succeed, people from different factions intermingle and produce children who may carry a mixture of traits from their parents. Over time, it is reasonable to assume that someone could be born with all the strengths of the five factions—therefore, this system actually encourages the inevitable creation of Divergents. While in Abnegation, Tris had an insatiable craving to be Dauntless, and her instinctive bravery is explainable by the fact that her mother used to be Dauntless herself. Maybe Tris has ancestors down her family line from every faction.

In Plato’s Republic, he discusses how people are composed by gold (commanders), silver (auxiliary), brass and iron (craftsmen)—predetermined by God himself. The species are generally preserved in their children, as they will most likely share a composition to that of their parents. However, “a golden parent will sometimes have a silver son, or a silver parent a golden son.” Plato continues to state that parents should observe the natural elements in their offspring, because nature may call for a “transposition of ranks”. He also mentions that no one should be disappointed if their offspring show elements of a lower “class” because it is part of the natural order. In Divergent, the teenagers’ right to determine their place in society themselves is not really a celebrated freedom. Before the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice encounters Jeanine, who tells her, “I’m sure your parents will support whatever choice you make.” Beatrice responds, “I thought it wasn’t supposed to be a choice. The test should tell us what to do.” “You’re still free to choose.” “But you don’t really want that.” Once Beatrice makes the decision to join a different faction, she sees the look of disappointment on her parents’ faces—the same look they expressed when they found out Caleb had also joined a new faction.

Although she has a Dauntless element inside of her, this society does not commemorate change that is not controllable by the ruling faction. In an effort to maintain some strict order within the system, there are rules. Once a decision has been made, the teenagers cannot change their mind about their faction and return to their old faction. In fact, if they fail inside their chosen faction, they must join the undesirable Factionless. Also, they must assume the “faction before blood” mantra. When Tris goes to see her brother at Erudite, he brushes her off and puts his devotion to his faction before his family. This in-group sense of identity keeps the five factions manipulatable. [See clip below]

Just as Divergent ends with the “revolution” still not yet won by Divergents (and allies), We ends with the future state of One State uncertain. Although parts of the Green Wall have been destroyed and there seems to be an increase in social rebellion, the survival of this society is still questioned. Divergent, however, does seem more hopeful in bringing about the near-future destruction of the totalitarian city-state—mainly because of a likeable, capable female lead who seems to be natural catalyst for change.

3 thoughts on “Divergent (2014); Faction Before Blood

  1. I and have been anxiously waiting for Divergent to appear on HBO Go and/or Netflix. Your review as only made the wait more painful.

    Reading your review, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to both The Hunger Games and to Blade Runner. As in The Hunger Games, the governing body ruled under the premise that they are protecting each district from the danger of the past. Both societies were divided into segments and were segregated from one another. While in Divergent people were separated into factions based on their abilities, those in the districts in The Hunger Games were born into the district and that district would be responsible for a certain task. For instance, one district’s job was to farm while District 12 was charged with the task of coal mining. In the case of Blade Runner, divergents and replicants had similar issues. Born with certain qualities, each group has to evade the authorities because they fear them in some way. They also must attempt to conform as much to society as possible in order to remain safe.

  2. @laila definitely see the connection between Divergent and Hunger Games. I remember watching Divergent a while back and saw the parallels between Hunger games and Divergent.

    The tests that the teenagers took in the movie — the one to find out which faction they are more characterized with, reflected the personality tests and career tests that we have in our world. Both are only reliable to a certain extent. I was so glad that Beatrice chose based on what she was curious about.

    I also remember how much I resonated with beatrice and the other divergents. I think of myself as someone who’s more of a “trade of all jacks but master of none” kind of person, and throughout my life I’ve struggled with making decisions because of that. Especially when in my community, people who knew what they wanted in life were more revered while does who are clueless, like myself, were looked down upon.

  3. Mainly I just want to point out that your overall summary and analysis of the movie Divergent makes me really want to invest some time seeing this film and learning more about it as well as the novels. I have always stayed away from all things fad, and I truly felt like this was just another movie based on a series of books that everyone rushes out to see. Now I think I may just jump on the bandwagon and find out for myself.
    Also, I do see the connection to this movie and the conditions in the Giver. Although in the Giver if someone does not assimilate well into the society they are released to Elsewhere (which is actually death), and this is similar to what happens when teens are either factionless or become divergent and do not fit in to the city-state in the movie. Besides the connection to the book the Giver I also agree with Kai and Laila about the connection to Blade Runner as well as Hunger Games.

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