Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Divergent Isn't Much of a Dystopia

I've mentioned Divergent by Veronica Roth, but barely read it. The book series is labeled "The new/next The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins." There are similarities, but the dystopic society in Divergent isn't as developed as in The Hunger Games. There will be spoilers in this post to explain why I think Divergent is a weak dystopia. I try to be vague.

Immediate Reaction

The beginning of Divergent felt slow and for a younger audience than The Hunger Games. I also saw a big flaw in the dystopic society. Dystopic societies are false utopias because they have flaws and usually have false intentions from rulers, but the society is typically united as a whole even if the citizens do not believe the government's proclamations.

Single belief broadcast everywhere in Equilibrium.

The dystopic society in the movie Equilibrium concluded that emotion caused war so emotion was eliminated with sedatives. They united under this envisioned utopia. Violence is used only on those who oppose.

In Divergent, separation from different races, religions, and politics is proclaimed as a cause of war. So for peace they decide to unite by values. However, they remain separated by dividing into factions with different single values. For example, the Dauntless faction live brave, but they have the aggression that Amity faction forbids. This society does not share the same vision and the new arrangement does not sound too different from before. The difference is that you live with people of same expressed thinking. You're still part of the same nation as those who are different..

Shirt design of The Hunger Games districts.
Districts in The Hunger Games have unique cultures as a result of their different production and climates. They all have the same rules from the same ruler. If one district disobeys, then all are punished. The districts are united from the same ruler and on-going punishment. To keep them from uniting into a force against the ruler, they are physically separated from each other. The government forces two children from each district to fight each other annually.

Divergent doesn't have a single ruler figure. One faction has the society's government positions as their contribution.

Factions in Divergent see each other in public areas such as school so anyone can notice the obvious differences. As different as different countries. The devoted members despise the other factions. "We are right. Those guys are arrogant. And these guys are actually ruled by greed." The factions automatically fight each otherThey don't even pretend to work towards the same goal, which is peace.

The curious ones observe and consider leaving their own faction. At age 16, everyone chooses which faction to live the rest of their life. Although choosing another faction is felt as betrayal and "Faction before family" is taught to those who change, the choice has too much freedom for a dystopic society. Someone else choosing for you or rigged test results is more dystopic.

But I Still Got Hooked

The concept of living under one value and denying yourself the rest is interesting. The freedom to choose another faction isn't dystopic, but it's interesting too.

Left to right the factions are Dauntless, Erudite,
Candor, Selfless, and Amity.
The main character, Beatrice "Tris," may seem more passive than other heroines because she was raised to be selfless, but she has attitude. She has the teen problems of not meeting family and society expectations.

I was hooked after Tris made her choice. I enjoyed her reactions to new experiences such as running for fun. The author Veronica Roth gave a good description for that example. The story became thrill action militaristic adventure now that she had to pass the initiation for the faction to accept her. This part is the majority of the book. The teen interactions reminded me of the military sci-fi Insignia.

Another problem I had though was that Tris separated herself from everyone with the label Divergent. Even after agreeing with the boy Four that we should have all the values not choose one and put down others. I felt like I was hearing, "I'm special. Who else is one of the special people like me?" instead of "We are all human. Humans cannot live limited by one value. We are all those values." Hopefully she learns in another book.

Then I Lost Interest

After the initiation, the story changed quickly. The evil mastermind and the evil plan appeared. I thought they were weak. A peer during initiation is a stronger antagonist. I lost interest in reading the rest especially as certain characters died. Their deaths were weak scenes. One event was too close to one in Mockingjay, the 3rd book of The Hunger Games.

I had hoped that these events were a simulation. That would explain the quick weak turns. That was the only way I'd be pleased, but the weak events were not a simulation. It was a short section left but I still wasn't eager to read it.

I don't know if the next book Insurgent has a thrill ride too, but I'll stop at Divergent. I'd recommend Divergent for its teen identity struggles, trials, and "What if.." concept, but not as a dystopia. I'll probably see the movie in March 2014 with friends.