So what is Divergent?
Like most YA movies, Divergent was firstly a book series (three books) by Veronica Roth, released hot on the heels on The Hunger Games. Fans of The Hunger Games flocked to this new dystopian series, making it a New York Times bestseller and shooting Veronica Roth into the spotlight. The premise of the series is, I believe much more interesting than the Hunger Games but after the first book, in my opinion, the story got very chaotic and hard to follow. The films did not see the success of The Hunger Games, partly I think due to the fact that when they were released the genre was old and a bit worn and people had had enough of dystopian YA fiction, so much so that the final film in the series is set just to go on TV, which makes me very sad.
All this said though, I adore the first film and believe it has so much to offer us as we glimpse into the lives of young people.
The Book Synopsis
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue; Candour (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is – she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tries also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.
The Film synopsis
DIVERGENT is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Tries Prior (Shaklee Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Wins let) to destroy all Divergent, Tries must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James) and together they must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it’s too late. Based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth.
So what do the reviewers say?
Divergent was not the big box office success most thought it would be, with most weary of this genre finding the story difficult to follow. But some reviewers did see what I saw in this film, a film that asked us all a question. Who are you and who do you want to be?
Science fiction it may be, but the essence of the film is that timeless adolescent conundrum: who am I?
It’s really just an elaborate metaphor for Being Your Own Beautiful Self, which apparently goes over well with readers of a certain tender age.
What a conformist message.
What does Sarah say
This has to be honestly one of my most favourite films of all time. There are moments in it where I still feel my whole body tingle even though I have watched it so many times. I love the premise of the book and the movie and I found the movie to be visually stunning and thought-provoking. It is a film that challenges our thoughts on risk and fitting in and on been different and these are all topics I find super interesting, which may in part be why I love it so much.
Similar to the Hunger Games, this dystopian series is set in the future where the world has been split into factions, but this time based on certain qualities you process rather than what you do for a living, such as in the Hunger Games. The factions being Abnegation for the selfless, Candour for the honest, Amity for the peaceful, Erudite for the intelligent and Dauntless for the brave. Again, it has a female lead who is put in some very dicey situations and it does, like The Hunger Games, involve children hunting and killing each other but for survival rather than for entertainment.
It is, in my opinion, a much more interesting story and premise than the Hunger Games and will make a less exhausting movie to watch, although the Hunger Games is easier to read
What are the key learning concepts?
Divergent is really interesting for me in that it looks at a problem that every teenager faces, and that is the choice to follow the path of their parents or to turn their back and go their own way.
When children in this new world are 16 they have to choose which faction they want to spend the rest of their lives in. There is a ceremony and each young person of relevant age must walk up to face bowls and spill their blood (from a cut on their hand) over the bowl whose faction they want to join. If they choose to join a faction that their parents are not in, they are taken away from their family and there will be no more contact with them. So essentially, they choose to follow the ideals they have been brought up with or turn away from their parents and take another route. Isn’t that a choice every young person makes at some level in their lives? In the book some stay, some leave out of rebellion, curiosity, a need for something else and some even leave to escape abuse. For some the choice is easy and for others, it is a real struggle. I can’t think of a young person who would not identify with this dilemma that they all face. When you read/watch it you even begin to ask yourself which faction you would belong to, which you would choose. For me, it would have been Dauntless through and through.
What I also find intriguing about the book/film is the underlying message that each faction cannot survive without the other; each faction has a job to do and the stability of the world depends on them all working equally together. As the story goes on, we also learn that some people are what are called divergent, which means they display characteristics from more than one faction, and it is these divergent ones that will save the world, giving us a clear message that these qualities should be in balance with each other for total harmony.
It also takes an interesting look at bravery and fear and puts a really intriguing twist on them with such quotes as these littered throughout the text.
“I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”
“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”
“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.”
“Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up”
It is a film where the characters are shown being fearless and taking risks. In a world where we mollycoddle our children a lot, I find that so refreshing.
A few other concepts to note. In this film, being divergent or different is dangerous, and I mean you die if anyone finds out. For me, this tackles the whole idea that we must conform and that if you are different you risk being picked upon bullied. This is a concept that most young people can really relate to.
It also takes an interesting look at choice; a look at the quotes on the new book cover tells you that one choice can transform you, and that is certainly right in the film and book. It really does take a look at choice for a really interesting perspective that is ripe in my opinion for discussion.
This book and movie are great conversation starters when working with and parenting young people. They cover so many concepts that young people themselves are dealing with, things that we as adults may have long since forgotten.
And of course, there is an enduring love story.
How can you use this film as a conversation starter?
Here are some questions to get you started.
•Which fraction would you be in and why? This one sparked a full-scale debate in my home and has the same effect when I talk to young people – it will certainly get the conversation going.
•What qualities do you think would create a balanced society?
•How do you feel about risk and fear? Can they ever be a good thing?
•Do you feel that the choices we make are forever? Are there choices that are? Can choices be undone?
These are just a few to get you started but I do feel that we could go on and on. The concept in this book and film is ripe to start discussions with young people. I encourage you to come up with new ideas and concepts and share your own. There is so much gold to be mined from this movie.
What did you learn from the film? What would you add?
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